Between the ages of 1 and 4, children’s speech takes off at a tremendous rate. Toddlers and preschoolers learn the vast majority of their vocabulary in this small window of time, and this is also when early intervention is the most helpful for kids with speech difficulties. Identifying speech problems before the school years is a very important skill parents should seek to develop.
First and foremost, if you have a concern about your little one’s speech, talk to your pediatrician. A medical professional is the best resource for learning about the help that is available.
Number of Words
One way to identify potential problems is to consider your child’s number of words. By your child’s first birthday, he should have said his first word. Do not be worried if there are few other words in his vocabulary, though. By age 2, two-word phrases should have entered the vocabulary. A child should be making short sentences by the age of 3, using at least three-words. Longer sentences should be present by age 4.
The sounds your child is able to make can also help you pinpoint problems. It is completely normal for a preschooler to be unable to make some sounds. By the age of 3, children should be able to say m, n, h, w, and p. They should add b, t, d, k, g, and f by age 4. The v, j, s, l, and r sounds appear by age 6, with more complex sounds like z, ch, sh, and th coming by age seven.
Recognizable speech is also an indicator for you to look at. By age 2, strangers should be ale to understand about half of what your child says. This should increase to 75 percent by age 3, and 90 percent by age 4.
Other Warning Signs
There are some other warning signs you can watch for when identifying speech problems in toddlers and preschoolers. For instance, a child should be able to follow simple commands, like ‘bring me your doll’ by age 18 months. They should be talking, at least a few words, by age 21 months. By age 3, children should understand opposites, like big and little or up and down. If by age 5 the child’s communication is still difficult to understand to the point that you are communicating for her, then help is needed.
But the bottom line is that you are the mom, so go with your gut. If something seems off with your child, seek help. Early intervention is affordable and quite helpful, so take advantage of it if your child could stand to benefit.