Speech & Language Milestones

Developmental milestones for children aged 0-5, designed to help you determine whether you need to seek professional speech therapy services.

How do I know if

my child needs professional

speech therapy assistance?

The process of learning to communicate begins at a very early age. It involves a complex interplay between our brains and our muscles as we listen to the sounds we hear and learn to produce those sounds. Each distinct sound requires the coordinated manipulation of the diaphragm (breathing muscles), vocal chords, jaw, tongue, teeth, lips, hard and soft palates.

At the same time, we are undertaking the complex task of interpreting the sounds we hear and constructing meaning from them. And it isn’t just the meaning of words we need to understand, but also how the tone of voice changes the meaning of those words. At the same time, we are discovering how gestures and body language also communicate meaning.

As we begin to form words into sentences, we begin to grapple with the rules of language. We form an understanding how a sentence is constructed by placing words in a particular order. And this is all before we begin the task of learning how to read, write, spell or use grammar and punctuation.

As you can see, there are numerous skills we need to develop in order to communicate effectively. The following pages offer a guide to understanding when your child might achieve those milestones. Some children will develop at their own pace and the fact that they have not yet achieved a particular milestone might have little impact on their future development. For other children, some extra assistance in helping them with particular skills can have a significant impact on their future academic ability, social skills and behaviour.

The underlying causes of difficulties with speech can vary significantly. Some children have trouble producing particular sounds and need to strengthen and control the muscles required for those sounds. For others, the difficulty is not muscular, but rather because the brain has difficulty generating the correct signal to sequence the correct movements required for speech. The issues surrounding language, fluency, literacy and communication development can be equally diverse and therefore it is essential to seek a professional diagnosis before making decisions about the best pathway forward for your child.

If you have any concerns about the development of your child after reading the Speech and Language Milestone, please contact Alex V. Speech Pathology for a consultation.

0 – 1 Year Milestones: Talking

Birth - 3 months

  • Is able to produce pleasure sounds (cooing)
  • Has a varying cries for different needs
  • Smiles when seeing a familiar adult

4 - 6 months

  • Babbling becomes more speech-like with different sounds produced, including p, b and m
  • Is able to chuckle and laugh
  • Is able to vocalise excitement and displeasure
  • Produces gurgling sounds when alone or when playing with another person

7 months - 1 year

  • Begins to play and enjoy games like peek-a-boo
  • Often turns and looks in direction of sounds
  • Pays attention when spoken to
  • Can recognise words for some common items like “cup”, “shoe”, “book”, or “juice”
  • Is beginning to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)

0-1 Year Milestones: Hearing & Understanding

Birth - 3 months

  • Is startled by loud sounds
  • Smiles or quiets when they are spoken to
  • Recognises a familiar adult’s voice and quiets if crying
  • Changes sucking behaviour in response to sound

4 - 6 months

  • Is able to move their eyes in the direction of sounds
  • Responds to different tones of your voice
  • Takes notice of toys that make sounds
  • Can pay attention to music

7 months - 1 year

  • Babbling beginning to include long and short groups of sounds such as “tata upup bibibibi”
  • Is able to use non-crying sounds such as speech to get and maintain someone’s attention
  • Uses gestures when communicating (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • Beginning to imitate different speech sounds
  • Able to use one or two words (hi, dog,dada, mama) around 1 year of age, although these sounds may not yet be clear

1 – 5 Year Milestones: Talking

1 - 2 Years

  • Produces new words with every passing month
  • Able to use some one- or two- word questions (“Where kitty?” “Go bye-bye?” “What’s that?”)
  • Uses small two word sentences (“more milk,” “no hat,” “mommy see”)
  • Uses a variety of consonant sounds at the beginning of words

2 -3 Years

  • Has roughly 50 understandable words in their vocabulary
  • Able to use two- or three- words to make a comment or request
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds
  • Speech is intelligible to familiar adults most of the time
  • Asks for or directs attention to an object by naming it

3 - 4 Years

  • Talks about daily activities (e.g. a visit to a friend’s house)
  • Unfamiliar adults can understand their speech most of the time.
  • Uses sentences that have 4 or more words.
  • Able to convey their message easily without repeating syllables or words

4 - 5 Years

  • Uses sentences that contain a lot of detail (“the big brown teddy is mine”)
  • Is able to maintain a topic
  • Communicates easily with peers and adults
  • Is able to produce most sounds correctly except for a few which may inclue l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th.
  • Is able to say rhyming words when asked
  • Identifies and names some letters and numbers
  • Uses grammar which is consistent with the rest of the family

1-5 Year Milestones: Hearing & Understanding

1 -2 Years

  • Able to point at some body parts when asked
  • Follows simple commands and understands simple questions (“kick the ball,” “pat the doggy,” “Where’s your hat?”)
  • Can pay attention and listen to stories, songs, and rhymes
  • Points to the corresponding picture in a book when named

2 - 3 Years

  • Able to understand different meanings (“go-stop,” “in-on,” “big-little,” “up-down”)
  • Follows two step commands (“Get the book and put it on the table”)
  • Enjoys hearing stories for longer periods of time

3 - 4 Years

  • Responds when you call from a different room.
  • Hears things at the same loudness as other people
  • Able to answer simple “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, and “why?” questions

4 - 5 Years

  • Attends to a complete short story and answers simple questions about it
  • Hears and understands most of what is said by adults in all environments