With so many patterns of normal speech and language development, it can be difficult to sort out what is most important. There are a few basic milestones that if not met, signal flags in early language development.
- First word – Most people say babies should have a first word by one year old. The normal range for a first word is 10 to 16 months.
- 50 words by 18 months, concern if less than 10 – Most babies have in the ballpark of 50 words by 18 months old. There is concern if there are less than 10, particularly if those 10 are garbled or only used once or not really in context. I actually wouldn’t be concerned if they only have five words, but those words were clear, well used in context and consistent.
- Two words together by 24 months – Most babies are putting two words together by 24 months. Many of them are stringing six and seven word sentences, but the concern is single words only.
- For articulation – Think that children should be 50% understood by strangers at two and a half years old. This means half the time when your child speaks to the lady checking groceries, she understands them. By three years old this jumps to 75%, meaning more often than not she understands. It doesn’t count to be understood by grandma or a great babysitter, they hear his language often. This marker is for strangers.
I am a firm believer in the benefits of early intervention. If you feel or worry your child has a speech or language issue, there is no harm in having an evaluation. Children often enjoy the process, and at best they reassure you and let you know to let go of the concern. At worst, the child qualifies for what were needed services, and you get started on a better long-term path. Somewhere in the middle, they may not qualify for services, but you are given great guidance for working with your child to make improvements at home. Whatever the outcome, early intervention also provides a baseline; a professionals take of where your child is and how to move forward.