Communication & Language Difficulties


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Communication milestones


Communication milestones mark significant stages in a child’s language development journey, from infancy to adulthood. Understanding these stages is crucial for parents, caregivers, and educators to provide effective support and nurture children’s communication skills throughout their development.


Unlocking Speech: A guide to communication milestones

  • Birth to 1 Year:
  • 13 to 18 Months:
  • 19 to 24 Months:
  • 2 to 3 Years:
  • 3 to 4 Years:
  • 4 to 5 Years:
  • Early Childhood (5-8 Years):
  • Middle Childhood (9-12 Years):
  • Adolescence (13-18 Years):
  • Adulthood:
Birth to 1 Year:
  • Crying as a means of communication, indicating needs like hunger, discomfort, or fatigue.
  • Notices sounds.
  • Makes cooing sounds like “oooo” and “ahh.”
  • Babbling emerges around 4-6 months, with repetitive consonant-vowel combinations (e.g., “bababa” or “dadada”).
  • Responding to familiar voices and sounds.
  • Understanding simple words like “no” or their name.
  • Gesturing (pointing, waving) to communicate desires or intentions.
  • Recognizing and responding to familiar faces.
13 to 18 Months:
  • Looks around when asked “where” questions, like “Where’s your blanket?”
  • Follows simple instructions like “give” or “show” such as “Give me the ball,” “Come here,” or “Show me your eyes.”
  • Points to ask for things or share thoughts.
  • Shakes head for “no” and nods for “yes.”
  • Knows and says words for common things and people.
  • Identifies body parts.
  • Uses gestures for excitement, like clapping or giving high-fives, or for humor, like sticking out their tongue or making funny faces.
  • Combines sounds, syllables, and words in speech.
19 to 24 Months:
  • Understands and uses at least 50 words for food, toys, animals, and body parts. Speech may not always be clear, with variations like “du” for “shoe” or “dah” for “dog.”
  • Combines two or more words in speech, such as “more water” or “go outside.”
  • Follows two-step instructions, like “Get the spoon, put it on the table.”
  • Uses personal pronouns like “me,” “mine,” and “you.”
  • Asks for help using words.
  • Demonstrates understanding of possessives, like “Daddy’s sock.”
2 to 3 Years:
  • Uses word combinations frequently, sometimes repeating words or phrases.
  • Seeks attention by saying phrases like “Look at me!”
  • Says their name when asked.
  • Uses some plural words and -ing verbs.
  • Talks about past actions with -ed, like “looked” or “played.”
  • Provides explanations or reasons for situations, such as needing a coat when it’s cold.
  • Asks questions like “why” and “how.”
  • Answers questions about actions or choices.
  • Says consonants p, b, m, h, w, d, and n clearly.
  • Says most vowels correctly.
  • Speech is improving but may still be unclear to unfamiliar listeners or those unfamiliar with the child.
3 to 4 Years:
  • Compares things using words like “bigger” or “shorter.”
  • Tells stories from books or videos.
  • Understands and uses words for location like “inside,” “on,” and “under.”
  • Talks about things using words like “a” or “the.”
  • Pretends to read alone or with others.
  • Recognizes signs like “STOP.”
  • Pretends to write or spell and can form some letters.
  • Says consonants like t, k, g, f, y, and -ing correctly.
  • Pronounces all syllables in a word.
  • Identifies sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words.
  • By age 4, speaks fluently without repeating sounds or words.
  • By age 4, speech is mostly understandable, although may still have trouble with some sounds like l, j, r, sh, ch, s, v, z, and th.
  • By age 4, pronounces all sounds in consonant clusters, but may not always produce them correctly in every word, such as saying “spway” for “spray.”
4 to 5 Years:
  • Constructs correct sentences, often longer and more complex.
  • Tells stories with main characters, settings, and connecting words like “and.”
  • Uses irregular plural forms such as “feet” or “men.”
  • Understands and uses location words like “behind” or “between.”
  • Appropriately uses time-related words like “yesterday” and “tomorrow.”
  • Follows simple directions and game rules.
  • Identifies the front cover and title of a book.
  • Recognizes and names at least 10 letters, and can usually write their own name.
  • Practices reading and writing from left to right.
  • Combines word parts and identifies rhyming words.
  • Pronounces most consonants correctly, making speech understandable in conversation.
Early Childhood (5-8 Years):
  • Develops storytelling skills with coherent plots.
  • Expresses opinions and preferences.
  • Masters basic grammar and vocabulary.
  • Expands reading and writing abilities.
  • Begins using digital communication tools.
  • Participates in group discussions and collaborative activities.
Middle Childhood (9-12 Years):
  • Develops storytelling skills with coherent plots.
  • Expresses opinions with reasoning.
  • Masters basic grammar and vocabulary.
  • Expands reading and writing abilities.
  • Begins using digital communication tools.
  • Collaborates in group projects and activities.
Adolescence (13-18 Years):
  • Develops advanced storytelling and persuasive skills.
  • Engages in debates and discussions.
  • Acquires specialized vocabulary.
  • Reads diverse texts and analyzes them critically.
  • Writes fluently and analytically.
  • Utilizes digital communication extensively.
  • Collaborates effectively in various settings.
Adulthood:
  • Refines communication skills for professional and personal contexts.
  • Adapts language to different audiences and purposes.
  • Continues to expand vocabulary and refine grammar.
  • Utilizes technology for communication and productivity.
  • Collaborates effectively in professional environments.

Signs of language difficulties:


  • Birth–3 months: Not smiling or playing with others
  • 4–7 months: Not babbling
  • 7–12 months: Making only a few sounds. Not using gestures, like waving or pointing.
  • 7 months–2 years: Not understanding what others say
  • 12–18 months: Saying only a few words
  • 1½–2 years: Not putting two words together
  • 2 years: Saying fewer than 50 words
  • 2–3 years: Having trouble playing and talking with other children
  • 2½–3 years: Having problems with early reading and writing. Ex: your child may not like to draw or look at books.
  • Preschool Age (3-5 years): Trouble with grammar, pronunciation, and storytelling; lack of interest in books.
  • School Age (6-12 years): Difficulty with reading, writing, and comprehension compared to peers; struggles with expressing thoughts clearly.
  • Adolescence (13-18 years): Continued challenges with reading, writing, and verbal expression; impact on academic performance and social interactions.
  • Adulthood: Persistent difficulties with verbal and written communication, impacting career and relationships.


Elsa Marta Soares Speech Therapist
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