Toddler Speech and Language Delay: Know The Signs

Toddler Speech and Language Delay: Know The Signs

Are your child’s speech & language skills developing on track?

It is important to recognize early signs of speech and language delays in order to target these difficulties early and prevent future social and academic challenges. Often times, children who are struggling with communication have trouble following directions and use more gestures than words to communicate. In addition, they are not easily understood by others, have frequent tantrums, prefer to play alone and have difficulty with attention.

What we know about late-talkers:

Children that are identified as late-talkers have lower language skills later in life when compared to children that develop speech and language as expected (Rescorla, 2009). Many children that are late-talkers will catch up to their peers but there are many factors to consider. Some of these factors include comprehension skills, socioeconomic status, attention and quality of parenting skills. Hammer, Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, Bitetti & Maczuga (2017) reported that reduced vocabulary between the ages of 24–48 months was an indicator of school readiness. Children who are late-talkers benefit from intervention in order to receive the support they need for school success. (Hammer et al., 2017).

It All Begins at Home

It is important for parents to learn strategies for helping their children develop and improve speech and language skills. Parents are the first exposure children have to communication. For example, infants learn that when they cry they get their needs met. In fact, parents can tell the difference between a cry of discomfort and a cry of hunger. Since infants do not have verbal speech, crying is their way to communicate. Consequently, babies begin to learn that their actions get a response much like turn-taking in a conversation between two people. Studies have found that with proper coaching, parents are able to provide effective language intervention for their young children at home (Roberts & Kaiser 2011).

Act now!

Providing enriching language intervention at home allows children to learn in natural settings. Furthermore, parents begin to recognize intervention opportunities in other settings like at the playground or supermarket. For tips and strategies check out my article, Toddler Talking? Easy Tips to Get them Talking.

If you notice red flags it is recommended that you speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist to determine if a speech-language evaluation is warranted. It is better to diagnose and treat speech and language disorders early because they can lead to problems with learning and socialization. The earlier the better!

Red Flags:

  •  Doesn’t babble between 4–7 months of age
  •  Makes only a few sounds between 7–12 months of age
  •  Has fewer than 50 words in his/her vocabulary at age 2
  •  Is rarely understood by others at age 2
  •  Doesn’t put 2 words together at age 2
  •  Has difficulty interacting with other children at age 3
  •  Incorrectly says the sounds /p,b,m,h,w/ most of the time at age 2
  •  Incorrectly says the sounds /k,g,f,t,d,n/ most of the time at age 3

Early intervention is the key to success! Please don’t wait to speak with a professional.


Child Speech and Language (n.d.) Retrieved from

Hammer, C. S., Morgan, P., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M., Bitetti, D., & Maczuga, S. (2017). Late Talkers: A Population-Based Study of Risk Factors and School Readiness Consequences. J Speech Lang Hear Res, 60(3), 607–626. doi: 10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15–0417.

Rescorla, L. (2009). Age 17 Language and Reading Outcomes in Late-Talking Toddlers: Support for a Dimensional Perspective on Language Delay. J Speech Lang Hear Res, 52(1), 16–30. doi: 10.1044/1092–4388(2008/07–0171).

Roberts, M. Y. & Kaiser, A. P. (2011). The Effectiveness of Parent-Implemented Language Interventions: A Meta-Analysis. Am J Speech Lang Pathol, 20(3), 180–199. doi: 10.1044/1058–0360(2011/10–0055).

Photo Credit: Visual hunt


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