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SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

The following are behaviors to expect of children with normally developing speech and language:

Birth to 3 Months:

3 Months to 6 Months:

  • babble (use a series of sounds)
  • make at least 4 different sounds when using voice
  • babble to people when they speak

6 Months to 9 Months:

  • babble using "song-like tunes"
  • use voice (not crying) to get your attention
  • use different sounds and appear to be naming things

9 Months to 12 Months:

  • use jargon (appear to be talking)
  • use consonant sounds (b, d, g, m, n) when "talking"
  • jabber in response to a human voice, using changes in loudness, rhythm, and tone

First true words appear between ages 12 to 15 months

12 Months to 18 Months:

  • give one-word answers to questions
  • imitate many new words
  • use words more than one syllable with meaning (ex. "bottle")
  • speak 10 to 20 words

18 Months to 24 Months:

  • use own first name
  • use "my" to get toys and other objects
  • tell experiences using jargon and words
  • use 2-word sentences (ex: "my shoe," "go bye-bye," "more juice")

24 Months to 30 Months:

  • answer questions (What do you do when you are sleepy?)
  • use plurals (ex: "2 books," "dogs")
  • speak 100 to 200 words

30 Months to 36 Months:

  • use question forms correctly (who? what? where? when?)
  • use negative forms (ex: "it is not," "I can't")
  • relate experiences using 4- to 5-word sentences


Stages of development adapted from S. Epstein and J.S. Reilly (1989). Sensorineural hearing loss. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 36 (6), 1501-1520.

Here are some tips to help develop speech communication in your child:

  1. Ensure that your child is wearing appropriate amplification or other sensory aids during all waking hours of the day.
  2. Talk to your child clearly, at a normal conversational level, and at close range.
  3. Be aware of your child's interests, and talk to her about the features in the objects and events that are taking place while observing them.
  4. Follow your child's focus of attention. Don't try to constantly lead or control topics of discussion.
  5. Talk to your child about the routine situations in her life.
  6. Talk about shared experiences and events and objects that are common to both of you.
  7. Use different voice patterns when indicating various aspects of speech to your child.
  8. Use intonation to mark important elements in utterances.
  9. Allow your child plenty of time to respond during conversations.
  10. Shift gradually the responsibility for being understood from you to the child as he acquires more spoken language.
  11. Use mainly complete sentences when speaking.
  12. Provide your child with the opportunity to acquire language by participating in activities which are common in life.
  13. Maintain a close relationship with professionals in order to provide your child with the optimal opportunities to develop spoken language communication.
  14. Be prepared to be the primary person responsible for the initial development of your child's spoken language.
  15. Work in as many one-on-one situations as possible until your child has acquired reasonable communication skills.
  16. Remember children who have learned in primarily one-on-one situations have to learn additional communication skills to interact appropriately in a group setting.
  17. Remember to set aside time to just play with your child without concentrating on language development.
  18. Don't begin formal teaching of vowels and consonants until ample time has been spent on the informal learning of spoken language.
  19. Remember that speech production and reception are complex issues and give your child adequate time to learn them before you conclude that she can't handle them.
  20. Use meaningful communication as a base for developing spoken language.
  21. Optimize your child's contact with his hearing peers in order to enhance natural development of his spoken language skills.
  22. Motivate your child to talk by ensuring that her experiences with the acquisition of spoken language are successful.
  23. Adopt an alternative communication system only as a last resort.

This list was adapted from D. Ling (1989).Foundations of spoken language for hearing-impaired children. Washington, D.C.: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf

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