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How do you know if your child’s development is normal?

As a loving parent, you want the best for your child. You also want to know they’re reaching the typical developmental milestones for their age group. But how can you tell what’s ‘normal’?

When it comes to speech and language development, many parents wonder what to look out for that could indicate if there’s a problem. Every child is different and the rate of their progress can fluctuate at different ages. While this is the case, there are several warning signs that could signify a speech or language problem. Children can have difficulty with speech itself, understanding language, the expression of language, or a combination of all three.

These are some of the age-related warning sign markers to familiarize yourself with:

  • At 6 months: child doesn’t laugh and squeal, or look toward new sounds.

  • At 9 months: child has limited or no babbling and does not indicate when happy or upset.

  • At 12 months: child doesn’t point to objects or use gestures, such as waving or shaking their head.

  • At 15 months: child has used their first word and does not respond to "no" and "bye-bye”.

  • At 18 months: child doesn’t use at least 6-10 words consistently and doesn’t hear well or discriminate between sounds.

  • At 20 months: child doesn’t use at least 6 consonant sounds and doesn’t follow simple directions.

  • At 24 months: child has a vocabulary of fewer than 50 words and has decreased interest in social interactions.

  • At 36 months: strangers have difficulty understanding what the child is saying and the child doesn’t use simple sentences.

In terms of a child’s understanding and expression of language, these are the developmental markers they should be demonstrating at the following ages:

12-18 months

  • The child can understand familiar vocabulary.

  • They can look at a book and when asked, they can identify animals, foods and toys. For example, they could point to the correct animal in a book illustration when asked to do so.

  • They can follow a simple instruction, such as, “Go get your shoes”.

3 years old

  • They have a word for almost everything.

  • They can request things with three-word sentences, such as asking for crackers or juice.

  • They can follow a simple two-step instruction, such as, “Go get your shoes and bring them here”.

5 years old

  • The child’s speech is understood by others most of the time.

  • They can follow a two-step instruction relating to items that are not in the same room, such as: “Go brush your teeth, then get your shoes on”.

If, by the age of 6, a child is still having difficulty with pronouncing the ‘R’ sound, this will need speech and language therapy support to correct it. For example, pronouncing the R sound as a W, saying things like ‘wabbit’ instead of ‘rabbit’ and ‘Wyan’ instead of ‘Ryan’. Or saying an ‘aw’ sound, for example pronouncing the word ‘car’ as ‘caw’.

If you have any questions about these warning signs or you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, please call 503-266-1030 or email

Alternatively, you can book a free 15-minute consultation by clicking here.


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