Are My Child’s Language Skills Normal? Compare your child to the standards listed below.

Age Ranges

Minimal Expectations

(If your child cannot perform these skills by the end of the age range, an immediate referral to an early intervention program or speech-language pathologist is warranted.)

Typical Expectations

(Most children can perform these skills by the end of the age range.In other words, this is “typical” or “normal” development.)

 

0-3 months

-Communicates with cries, grunts, and facial expressions

-Prefers human voices

-Coos using vowel sounds

-May laugh out loud

-Smiles and coos to initiate and sustain interactions with caregivers

4-6 months

-Vocalizes & coos in response to adults talking or singing

-Blows raspberries

-Smiles in response to pleasant speech

-Begins to babble using consonant-vowel combinations

-Participates in games initiated by adults with smiles, laughter, and vocalizations

-Acquires sounds of native language in babble

-Squeals & laughs out loud

-Recognizes his name

6-9 months

-Vocalizes using different

sounding andtwo syllable combinations

-Begins to imitate duplicated syllables when modeled by an adult (“Mamamama” or “Bubububu”)

-Varies babbling in loudness, pitch, and rhythm

-Adds more consonants sounds to babbling

-May begin to say “mama” or “dada” but may not connect word with parent yet

-Begins to point or use other gestures like reaching to communicate

-Responds to “no” sometimes

9-12 months

-Imitates sounds or words made by others

-Gives objects in response to a request with outstretched hand

-Performs routine activity in response to verbal request (“Put your arm in.”)

-Participates in games such as “So Big” and “Peekaboo” with excitement and performs his part 

-Uses gestures more purposefully to influence the behavior of others

-Understands 25 or more words

-Begins to understand familiar words associated with routines & interests

-Waves bye-bye

-Let him says 5 words on his own

-Imitates other familiar words

-Initiates favorite games with adults

12-15 months

-Tries to say a few words on his own such as “Mama” or “Dada” or exclamatory wordslike “uh-oh” and “no-no”

-Imitates new words & animal sounds

-Performs simple requests such as giving a kiss and waving bye-bye.

-Identifies a few body parts

-Says 10 words on his own consisting mostly of nouns and names

-Understands words and directions associated with familiar routines

-Understands a few early prepositions with cues

15-18 months

-Uses words more often with aminimum of 8-10 word vocabulary

-Echoes last word spoken by an adult

-Names several familiar objects on request

-Points to 6 body parts or clothing items

-Finds familiar objects not in sight on request

-Language explosion occurs by the end of this phase so that he is saying many more words than before

-Normal range of vocabulary is between 15 and 50 words

-Begins to engage in jargon or unintelligible sentence-length utterances

-Begins to imitate two-word phrases & use a few familiar combinations on his own such as “more milk” or “Bye-bye Dada”

-Understands at least 50 words & follows many familiar commands

-Can point to a few familiar pictures on request

18-21 months

-Minimum vocabulary of 15 words

-Names a few pictures

-Points to familiar pictures on request

-Understands 150 words

-Typical vocabulary is 50+ words

-Adds new words everyday

(Some sources say 7-9 new words a day!)

-Uses new & differenttwo-word phrases

21-24 months

-Minimum vocabulary of 50 words

-Saystwo-word phrases on his own

-Follows many different and new verbal directions

-Speaks in 2-3 word phrases frequently

-Refers to himself by name

-Comprehends 300 words & can follow two-step related commands

-Vocabulary size is around 200 words he says on his own

-Is understood at least 25% of the time by parents

-Uses many different consonant sounds and all vowel sounds correctly

24-27 months

-Sings phrases of songs

-Names objects in photographs

-Begins to use a few action words/verbs

-Can point to more complex ideas in pictures (“Who is running”?)

-Uses 3 word phrases frequently

-Understands size concepts

-Understands concept of one

27-30 months

-Speaks in short phrases most of the time

-Parents understand at least 50% of what he says

-Names colors

-Consistently refers to himself using a pronoun

-Follows more complex verbal commands

30-33 months

-Answers questions with an accurate “yes” or “no”

-Uses plurals (books, shoes)

-Uses prepositions (in, on, out, off, up, down)

-Understands and correctly states gender (Are you a boy/girl?)

-States first and last name

-Uses negation (not sleeping)

-Understands size differences (big/little)

-Understands object functions (Which one do you wear on your feet?)

-Speaks in 4-5 word sentences more often.

-Starts to take more turns talking in early conversations

33-36 months

-Uses verb forms (-ing)

-Asks & Answers Who, what, where questions

-Counts to 3

-Recites a few nursery rhymes/songs

-Identifies parts of an objects

(Show me the wheels on the car.)

-Vocabulary increases to 300+ words

-Is understood by parents 90% of the time

-Uses 4-5 word sentences consistently with correct word order.

- Displays effective conversational skills such as asking and answering many kinds of questions including list to the left and “How”and “Why”

-Refers to himself using pronouns in sentences

-Understands and correctly uses gender pronouns (he/she,him/her)

-Talks about objects and events not immediately present

-Narrates & pretends with more elaborate pretend play schemes (going to doctor or shopping)

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Comments

  1. Susan says

    I definitely need to work on my son saying his first and last name. He sorta says his first name, but needs to work on his articulation.

    As for the songs…I’m worried for my son who is 26 months old. He just started showing an interest in Row Your Boat and Twinkle Little Star, but it’s not very intelligible – is that a problem?

  2. Laura says

    Susan – Just work on his first name if he’s 26 months old. Save working on your last name for after he’s mastered his name. Don’t worry about perfect intelligibility in attempts to sing songs at this point either. As long as his vocabulary is moving along at 200-300 words he knows and says and as long as he’s using short phrases on his own, he’s doing fine. Laura

  3. Angela says

    Laura,
    Thanks so much for all the information on your site! My son is 16 months old and just started early intervention. My mom thinks I’m over-reacting even though he qualified for services, but your list shows me that I’m not crazy for being concerned. My son has no words, but does babble some. He won’t imitate sounds after me or signs. We sign and label everything around here hoping he’ll catch on and have been since he turned one, but he still doesn’t seem to get it. His receptive language is delayed too. The only words (or signs, not sure which he is connecting with) he understands are ball, car, milk, and bath. He does not wave or point to things he wants, but he has great eye contact and laughs and smiles at us. He has a hearing screening scheduled because of frequent ear infections, but he seems to hear sound…just not understand it. Does this sound like just a language delay? I get scared about autism, but he’s social so that doesn’t seem to fit that part.

  4. Laura says

    Hi Angela. If he qualified for therapy, then he genuinely needs it because most of the time the criteria for eligibility ensures that “borderline” kids do not receive services. The biggest concerns are his receptive language and lack of gestures, so I’m so glad you followed your gut instincts and had him evaluated.

    There are many reasons a child may exhibit receptive and expressive language delays, and autism is only one of them. When a child’s receptive skills are delayed, it is more severe than if there were only expressive delays. When there are receptive delays, the child isn’t only “a late talker.” However, with the right strategies in place at home and in therapy, many children do go on to make good progress and can overcome these issues. You did the right thing by seeking services earlier rather than later.

    Did the examiner mention concerns about autism? Many times parents think their child is social and engaged when an objective professional can identify social interaction deficits. For example, sometimes parents mistake fleeting eye contact for appropriate eye contact since they don’t have other children to compare their child to or to use as reference. Or they attribute a child’s isolation to his own personality or temperament difference rather than a social communication disorder. Or because the child is affectionate with them, say he tolerates hugs and kisses and even approaches a parent for comfort, they believe he can’t possibly be on the spectrum. I haven’t seen your child, so I have no way of knowing, but I did want to mention it since parents FREQUENTLY miss these key signs.

    Your SLP should teach you ways to work with him at home which will help him understand more language. My Teach Me to Listen and Obey 1 and 2 series may be helpful for you too since it explains the significance of receptive language disorders and more importantly, shows you how to work on those skills at home in play-based activities.

    Thanks for your email and good luck to you all! Laura

  5. Angela says

    Laura,
    Thanks for the response! Our SLP specifically mentioned that he did not seem autistic because of his great eye contact and how he wants to be near me. I was concerned about it because he does not gesture. We just got results from his hearing test and it said that he has mild to moderate hearing loss so that could be the reason for speech delay, but it doesn’t explain to me why he still isn’t catching onto sign language. We’ve been signing with him since before he was one and still no signs…he did sign more and milk for one month before his first birthday and has not signed them since then. He still won’t wave, but he just started giving high 5s so we are making a little progress I guess. Does your Teach me to listen and obey have info on sign language too? I haven’t ordered it yet, but I want to :)

  6. Laura says

    Angela – Hearing loss likely is a factor in his language delay. The best signing info is on Teach Me To Talk. I’d definitely start with that one and then decide if you need the other ones. Enter the coupon code INTRO to save $10. Let me know if you want me to answer other questions. Laura

  7. Mom of 2 says

    My daughter just turned 3 last week and although she talks and asks all sorts of questions she is probably on the lower end of average, definitely within normal standards, but she is just not very chatty. She doesn’t really comment on a lot of things like I see her peers doing and her language isn’t super creative like I see in her peers as well. In your experience, is this just personality or should I seek an eval? I should add that she is very very shy and although she loves kids she won’t really talk to them.

  8. Sabrina says

    Oh Laura! I am so glad I found your website! My son is going in for an evaluation at the Help Me Grow Clinic in a little over a week, and although my gut was saying something was wrong, EVERYONE said to wait. Even the pediatrician said “As long as he’s moving forward and making progress, any little progress is fine.” Even though he is my third child, my first two were/are extraordinarily gifted in language (they are actually receiving services because of their “gifted” status) so I knew I couldn’t compare him to them. My oldest was speaking in five word sentences and correctly using look n’ find flashcards at his age, and he just learned how to point at things! I thought it seemed like he wasn’t communicating, but I just didn’t know what “normal” was. This chart really opened my eyes to how delayed he is! He will be 21 months old this week. He just started pointing. He doesn’t call us Mama and Dada. He doesn’t label anything. He says “Shut” when he shuts doors and lids (his favorite activity) and he says “No” whenever he hears a question of any kind or when you are doing something he doesn’t like. His only other word is “Tay-too” for thank you when you give him something or he gives you something. He babbles great, and can echo ANYTHING but doesn’t correlate words with objects. He also cannot follow simple commands that aren’t accompanied by non-verbal cues. I cannot thank you enough for this website, and I will very likely be ordering some material… What would you recommend I start with???

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