The Early Years of Speech and Language.

A Guide to Speech and Language Milestones from Birth to 7 Years.

By Rajini

Last Updated: December 27, 2023

Table of contents

Developmental Milestones Chart

1 month
  • Responds to sounds and voices
  • Produces low-pitched sounds
  • Lifts chin when on stomach
  • Moves head side to side when on back
  • Keeps hands closed near face
  • Effective sucking reflex
  • Focuses on high-contrast patterns
  • Tracks nearby faces
  • Can differentiate mother's voice
  • Expresses discomfort through crying
2 months
  • Notices voices and sounds
  • Begins to coo
  • Shows a social smile around 6 weeks
  • Makes vowel sounds
  • Raises chest when lying on stomach
  • Head movement in sitting position
  • Half the time with open hands
  • Grips rattle when placed in hand
  • Clasps hands together
  • Opens mouth for feeding
  • Shows visual attention
  • Watches bold, contrasting items
  • Recognizes maternal figure
  • Smiles in response to voices and faces
3 months
  • Focuses on person speaking
  • Gentle laughter
  • Responds with sounds to conversation
  • Supports self on forearms when lying face down
  • Can roll onto side
  • Frequently opens hands
  • Examines own hands
  • Swipes at dangling items
  • Moves hands towards mouth
  • Touches own face
  • Tracks moving objects in a circular motion
  • Shows interest in toys
  • Displays facial reaction to strong tastes and sounds
  • Follows moving person with eyes
4 months
  • Turns head towards sound sources
  • Calms down with gentle voices
  • Joyful, loud laughter
  • Makes sounds when by themselves
  • Sits with some support
  • Steady head when sitting up
  • Supports body on hands
  • Able to roll from front to back
  • Mostly open hands
  • Grasps at fabrics
  • Reaches out regularly
  • Engages with a rattle
  • Grasps feeding bottle or breast briefly
  • Puts objects in mouth
  • Observes unknown faces longer than known ones
  • Enjoys shaking toys
  • Attempts to grab rings or rattles
  • Natural smiles at enjoyable sights and sounds
  • Quiets down hearing parent's voice
  • Alternates sounds in a conversation-like pattern
5 months
  • Starts reacting to their name
  • Makes "Ah-goo" sounds
  • Produces squealing sounds
  • Uses different sounds to show displeasure
  • Sits with support around hips
  • Able to roll from back to front
  • Extends arms forward to prevent falls
  • Sits by leaning on arms for support
  • Grasps objects with whole palm
  • Moves objects from hand to mouth and back
  • Clasps hands together
  • Reaches and grasps for suspended rings
  • Mouths semi-solid food
  • Looks for a fallen spoon
  • Shows interest in small food items like pellets or crackers
  • Visually identifies primary caregiver
  • Develops a bond with caregiver
6 months
  • Pauses briefly at the word "no"
  • Signals desire to be picked up
  • Repeats consonant sounds
  • Responds to conversation pauses with vocalizations
  • Interacts with own reflection in mirror
  • Sits briefly with hand support
  • Rotates body while lying on stomach
  • Supports weight on one hand when lying face down
  • Passes objects from one hand to the other
  • Gathers small objects with raking motion
  • Holds two cubes, one in each hand
  • Reaches out with one hand
  • Eats finger foods independently
  • Grasps feeding bottle
  • Engages with mirror image
  • Removes cloth covering face
  • Plays by banging and shaking toys
  • Shows caution around new people
7 months
  • Turns head towards known objects when mentioned
  • Engages with musical sounds
  • Uses a wider range of sound combinations
  • Jumps when supported in standing
  • Sits independently and stably
  • Uses arms for sideways protection
  • Extends arms for balance while sitting
  • Grasps objects using the whole hand
  • Shows signs of fullness and refuses extra food
  • Investigates toys in various ways
  • Examines an object in each hand
  • Discovers objects that are partially hidden
  • Seeks assistance from adults through eye contact and gestures
8 months
  • Acknowledges "Come here" command
  • Searches for family members when asked
  • Utters "Dada" without specific reference
  • Repeats heard sounds (Echolalia)
  • Uses head shake for "no"
  • Moves into sitting position independently
  • Crawls using arms to pull body
  • Raises to sitting or kneeling by pulling up
  • Imitates spoon banging
  • Pinches cube between fingers
  • Removes cube from a container
  • Extracts large pegs from board
  • Grasps and holds feeding bottle
  • Self-feeds small items like Cheerios or beans
  • Looks for objects that fall out of sight
  • Expresses emotions to parents clearly
  • Follows adult's gaze direction
9 months
  • Delights in playing gesture games
  • Responds consistently to their name
  • Turns towards the sound of a bell
  • Vocalizes "Mama" without specific reference
  • Engages in varied babbling
  • Mimics sounds heard
  • Assumes a hand-and-feet standing posture
  • Starts to crawl effectively
  • Pulls up to a standing position
  • Walks on hands and feet (Bear walk)
  • Grasps objects between fingers and thumb
  • Claps two cubes together
  • Chews on cookies
  • Examines a bell closely
  • Rings a bell actively
  • Pulls a string to get a ring
  • Uses vocalizations to attract attention
  • Experiences separation anxiety
  • Responds to pointing gestures
  • Recognizes known individuals visually
10 months
  • Delights in playing peek-a-boo
  • Responds with "bye-bye" gesture
  • Specifically refers to "Dada"
  • Initiates waving "bye-bye"
  • Crawls proficiently
  • Moves around furniture holding on with both hands
  • Stands while holding onto something with one hand
  • Walks when assisted by an adult holding both hands
  • Releases cube awkwardly
  • Uses a crude pincer grasp for small objects
  • Points with index finger
  • Drinks from a cup with assistance
  • Finds a toy hidden under a cloth
  • Investigates small objects inside containers
  • Attempts to place a cube in a cup, with difficulty in release
  • Shows signs of fear in certain situations
  • Turns head in response to their name
11 months
  • Pauses actions on hearing "no"
  • Moves in rhythm with music
  • Speaks first meaningful word
  • Sings along with tunes
  • Turns around while sitting
  • Moves along furniture with one hand for support
  • Stands independently for brief periods
  • Walks holding an adult's hand
  • Tosses items purposefully
  • Imitates stirring action with a spoon
  • Helps while being dressed
  • Discovers toy hidden under a cup
  • Shows interest in picture books
  • Hands objects to adults for help or further action
12 months
  • Complies with simple instructions accompanied by gestures
  • Identifies and looks at two familiar objects when named
  • Uses pointing to indicate wants
  • Combines gestures with vocalizations, like waving
  • Stands confidently with wide arm and leg stance
  • Uses protective reflexes to sit from standing
  • Takes steps independently
  • Imitates scribbling
  • Grasps small objects with thumb and forefinger
  • Handles a crayon
  • Tries to stack two blocks
  • Self-feeds portions of meals
  • Removes own hat
  • Plays with spoon in cup
  • Opens box to find a toy inside
  • Shows items to parents to express interest
  • Indicates desired objects by pointing
13 months
  • Responds correctly to "Where's the ball?" question
  • Speaks three different words
  • Uses babbling that mimics speech patterns
  • Walks with arms raised for balance (high guard)
  • Tries to place small objects into a bottle
  • Drinks from a cup, with occasional spills
  • Holds and swings a ring on a string
  • Maneuvers around obstacles to get objects
  • Removes cloth to find hidden toys
  • Eager to make caregiver happy
  • Engages in independent play
  • Participates in practical, purposeful play
14 months
  • Comprehends and acts on single-step instructions without gestures
  • Identifies and names one familiar object
  • Points to objects to indicate interest
  • Stands up from the floor without support
  • Sits down safely from a standing position
  • Walks confidently
  • Copies simple scribbling movements
  • Stacks a third block on top of two others
  • Places a round peg into a hole
  • Attempts to remove socks and shoes
  • Chews food effectively
  • Tries to eat with a spoon (though often upside down)
  • Empties contents of a bottle following a demonstration
  • Shows interest in objects by pointing
  • Explores toys actively, learning through trying different actions
15 months
  • Understands and follows simple verbal commands
  • Can verbally identify a familiar object
  • Uses pointing to show interest in objects
  • Bends to pick up toys without falling
  • Climbs stairs on hands and knees
  • Begins to run, albeit awkwardly
  • Walks while holding a toy
  • Climbs onto furniture independently
  • Constructs a tower using three to four blocks
  • Puts multiple cubes into a container
  • Places small items into a bottle
  • Eats with a spoon, though sometimes messily
  • Tries to brush hair
  • Shows discomfort during diaper changes
  • Turns book pages
  • Fits a circular shape into a matching puzzle slot
  • Demonstrates empathy by reacting to others' emotions
  • Gives hugs as a form of reciprocation
  • Understands when a toy needs to be activated and asks for help if unable to do it
16 months
  • Comprehends and responds to simple requests like "Bring to mommy"
  • Points accurately to a named picture in a book
  • Communicates using 5 to 10 different words
  • Balances briefly on one foot with support
  • Able to walk backwards
  • Climbs stairs with assistance
  • Inserts round pegs into board with encouragement
  • Scribbles without needing to be prompted
  • Handles a cup to drink independently
  • Carries small items within the same room
  • Empties contents of a bottle on their own
  • Finds a toy hidden under multiple layers
  • Matches a circular shape with its corresponding slot
  • Gives kisses by touching lips to skin
  • Regularly checks the location of caregiver
  • Becomes self-aware and may show signs of embarrassment
18 months
  • Identifies two out of three objects upon naming
  • Points to three different body parts
  • Points to themselves
  • Understands the concept of "mine"
  • Recognizes familiar people by name
  • Speaks between 10 to 25 words
  • Uses simple phrases like "all gone", "stop that"
  • Mimics sounds from surroundings
  • Can name a picture when asked
  • Safely descends stairs on hands and knees
  • Runs confidently
  • Sits in small chairs on their own
  • Throws a ball while standing
  • Stacks four blocks to make a tower
  • Imitates drawing a vertical line, though crudely
  • Takes off certain clothing items
  • Climbs onto an adult chair without help
  • Navigates around the house independently
  • Pairs similar objects together
  • Correctly fits a circle into a form board, even after it's rotated
  • Successfully completes the M-CHAT assessment
  • Participates in pretend play activities with others
  • Shows signs of shame and possessiveness in behavior
20 months
  • Accurately points to three different pictures
  • Starts understanding personal pronouns like her/him/me
  • Uses single words to convey a complete idea (e.g., "Mommy?" while pointing to keys)
  • Begins to form two-word sentences
  • Responds to requests or questions with "no"
  • Squats while playing without losing balance
  • Carries large toys or objects
  • Descends stairs with assistance
  • Finishes a round peg board independently
  • Builds a tower with five to six cubes
  • Successfully places square pegs in board
  • Puts only food items in mouth
  • Eats entire meals using a spoon
  • Figures out where hidden objects are
  • Matches a square shape to its slot in a form board
  • Shows emerging awareness of others' feelings
  • Plays pretend games like a tea party with toys
  • Gives kisses with lip pucker
22 months
  • Identifies four to five pictures by name
  • Points to five to six different body parts
  • Recognizes four types of clothing items when named
  • Communicates using 25 to 50 words
  • Requests more of something verbally
  • Learns one to two new words every week
  • Ascends stairs with rail support, stepping with both feet per step
  • Kicks a ball after seeing it done
  • Balances on one foot with some support
  • Puts a lid on a box
  • Mimics drawing a vertical line
  • Copies a circular scribble motion
  • Eats skillfully with a spoon
  • Drinks neatly from a cup
  • Manages to unzip zippers
  • Partially puts on shoes
  • Successfully completes a form board puzzle
  • Observes other children's activities closely
  • Starts to exhibit defiant behavior at times
24 months
  • Comprehends and executes two-step commands
  • Grasps the meaning of "me" and "you"
  • Points out 5 to 10 different pictures when named
  • Forms two-word sentences (noun and verb)
  • Speaks in concise, telegraphic phrases
  • Uses a vocabulary of over 50 words
  • Speech is half understandable
  • Identifies self by name
  • Names three pictures accurately
  • Descends stairs holding a rail, stepping with both feet per step
  • Kicks a ball without needing a demonstration
  • Throws objects with an overhand motion
  • Creates a line of cubes like a “train”
  • Imitates drawing a circle
  • Copies a horizontal line
  • Opens doors using the knob
  • Drinks using a straw
  • Removes clothing without buttons
  • Pulls down pants independently
  • Sorts different objects by categories
  • Matches objects with their corresponding pictures
  • Demonstrates the use of familiar items
  • Engages in parallel play with peers
  • Starts hiding true emotions in social situations
28 months
  • Grasps the concept of “just one”
  • Repeats two numbers in sequence
  • Starts using personal pronouns like I, me, you
  • Correctly names 10 to 15 pictures
  • Jumps off the bottom step leading with one foot
  • Walks on tiptoes after seeing it done
  • Backward walking for 10 steps
  • Threads large beads, though clumsily
  • Opens a jar by unscrewing the lid
  • Turns pages in a book, sometimes several at a time
  • Indicates toilet needs verbally and holds until bathroom reached
  • Pulls up pants with some help
  • Matches shapes correctly
  • Identifies and matches colors
  • Shows less anxiety when separated from primary caregivers
30 months
  • Executes two-part instructions involving prepositions ("put block in...on box")
  • Understands verbs related to actions like "playing," "washing," "blowing"
  • No longer exhibits echolalia or jargoning
  • Describes objects by their function
  • Uses correct pronouns for self-reference
  • Recites or fills in parts of familiar stories
  • Climbs stairs using rail and alternating feet
  • Jumps in place successfully
  • Balances on both feet on a balance beam
  • Walks along a balance beam with one foot in front of the other
  • Constructs a tower with eight cubes
  • Creates a “train” layout with cubes including a stack
  • Independently washes hands
  • Puts away objects and toys
  • Brushes teeth with some help
  • Fits circle into form board correctly with minimal trial and error
  • Identifies small details in pictures
  • Mimics adult behaviors like sweeping or talking on a phone
33 months
  • Grasps three different prepositions in context
  • Comprehends concepts of dirty and wet
  • Identifies objects based on their usage ("ride in...put on feet...write with")
  • States first and last name
  • Counts up to three
  • Starts using past tense in speech
  • Shows interest in short stories being read to them
  • Walks with arms swinging in coordination with leg movements
  • Builds a tower with 9 to 10 cubes
  • Places six square pegs into a pegboard
  • Copies the shape of a cross
  • Has mastered toilet training
  • Puts on a coat without assistance
  • Recognizes self in photographs
  • Identifies body parts by their function when asked
  • Starts taking turns in activities
  • Attempts to assist in household chores
3 years
  • Identifies specific parts in pictures (such as a cow's nose or a car's door)
  • Names body parts and their functions
  • Understands the concept of negatives (not, no)
  • Categorizes objects (like grouping foods or toys)
  • Communicates using over 200 words
  • Forms three-word sentences
  • Correctly uses pronouns
  • Speech is 75% understandable
  • Begins using plural forms of nouns
  • Explains body parts by their use
  • Expresses interest in being read to
  • Balances on one foot for 3 seconds
  • Climbs stairs alternating feet, without a rail
  • Rides a tricycle proficiently
  • Walks heel-to-toe with precision
  • Catches a ball using stiff arms
  • Accurately copies a circle
  • Uses scissors to cut in a straight line, albeit awkwardly
  • Threads small beads with skill
  • Mimics building a bridge using cubes
  • Eats independently
  • Pours liquids from one container to another
  • Puts on slip-on shoes
  • Manages to unbutton clothing
  • Draws a simple picture with two to three parts
  • Understands concepts of size and quantity like long/short, big/small, more/less
  • Aware of own gender
  • States own age
  • Matches basic letters and numerals
  • Begins to share with others, sometimes needing a reminder
  • Develops fears of imaginary concepts
  • Engages in imaginative play
  • Uses language to express thoughts about others' mental states
4 years
  • Executes three-part instructions
  • Identifies similarities between objects
  • Associates objects with their functions
  • Recognizes adjectives like bushy, long, thin, pointed
  • Vocabulary of 300 to 1,000 words
  • Narrates simple stories
  • Speech is completely intelligible
  • Expresses emotions verbally
  • Describes time in basic terms
  • Balances on one foot for 4 to 8 seconds
  • Hops on one foot multiple times
  • Performs standing broad jump
  • Gallops with coordination
  • Throws ball overhand a distance of 10 feet
  • Catches a bounced ball
  • Draws a square
  • Ties a simple knot
  • Cuts out a circle with scissors
  • Transfers objects using tongs
  • Writes part of their first name
  • Builds a cube bridge
  • Toilet independent
  • Manages self-wiping after bowel movement
  • Washes face and hands unassisted
  • Brushes teeth independently
  • Buttons clothing
  • Eats proficiently with a fork
  • Draws a person with four to six parts
  • Gives accurate amounts (less than 5)
  • Understands simple analogies
  • Identifies five to six colors
  • Recognizes letters and numerals
  • Counts to 4
  • Recognizes common signs and store names
  • Shows interest in deceiving and detecting deception
  • Has a favorite friend
  • Identifies personal emotions
  • Participates in group play activities
5 years
  • Distinguishes right and left on oneself
  • Identifies the different item in a series
  • Comprehends ‘er’ endings in words
  • Understands descriptive adjectives
  • Enjoys and creates rhyming words and alliterations
  • Correctly points to terms like ‘side,’ ‘middle,’ ‘corner’
  • Repeats sentences of six to eight words
  • Defines simple words
  • Uses a vocabulary of 2,000 words
  • Recalls telephone number
  • Answers ‘why’ questions
  • Narrates stories with clear structure
  • Descends stairs alternating feet without rail support
  • Balances on one foot for over 8 seconds
  • Hops on one foot 15 or more times
  • Skips proficiently
  • Achieves a running broad jump of 2 to 3 feet
  • Walks backward heel-to-toe accurately
  • Jumps backward confidently
  • Replicates a triangle drawing
  • Attaches a paper clip to paper
  • Uses clothespins for object transfer
  • Cuts precisely with scissors
  • Writes own first name legibly
  • Constructs a stair model from cubes
  • Spreads using a knife effectively
  • Dresses without assistance
  • Bathes independently
  • Draws a detailed person with 8 to 10 parts
  • Gives correct quantities up to 10
  • Identifies different coins
  • Recognizes letters and numerals in random order
  • Counts to 10 fluently
  • Names a variety of colors
  • Uses letters to form basic spellings
  • Knows sounds of consonants and vowels by kindergarten end
  • Reads a set of familiar words
  • Forms a circle of friends
  • Shows ability to apologize for mistakes
  • Expresses happiness for others’ good fortune
6 years
  • Inquires about meanings of unknown words
  • Identifies words that are out of context in a group
  • Repeats sentences containing 8 to 10 words
  • Narrates events sequentially
  • Familiar with the days of the week
  • Has a vocabulary of about 10,000 words
  • Performs tandem walking
  • Constructs a staircase from memory
  • Draws a diamond shape accurately
  • Writes first and last name legibly
  • Composes and writes simple sentences
  • Forms letters using proper strokes
  • Replicates a flag drawing
  • Ties shoelaces independently
  • Combs hair autonomously
  • Practices street safety by looking both ways
  • Remembers to bring personal items
  • Illustrates a person with 8 to 10 parts
  • Counts to 20 using a number line
  • Performs basic addition and subtraction
  • Understands the concept of seasons
  • Deciphers regularly spelled words by sounding out
  • Reads around 250 words by the end of first grade
  • Has a same-sex best friend
  • Enjoys playing board games
  • Differentiates between fantasy and reality
  • Shows desire to conform with and please friends
  • Expresses enjoyment in school activities

Our Developmental Milestones Chart not only outlines speech milestones, such as the key developments at 18 months and 2 years, but also encompasses a broader spectrum of child development, including gross motor, fine motor, self-help, problem-solving, and social/emotional skills. This holistic approach ensures a complete understanding of a child's overall progress. The inclusion of detailed elements like the language milestones for 2-year-olds and the speech sound development chart offers an in-depth view, aiding in early detection and intervention strategies.


Speech and language development is a crucial aspect of a child's overall growth. This guide compiles detailed insights from various age-specific articles to provide a comprehensive overview of speech and language milestones from birth to 7 years. It also addresses the unique needs of children with special needs or autism.


Birth to 12 Months: Early Sounds and Responses

This foundational period is marked by the emergence of early communication behaviors in infants. Their communication is primarily through basic vocalizations and expressions. These early interactions, though simple, are critical for laying the groundwork for future language skills. Babies start to recognize voices, respond to sounds, and begin the initial stages of babbling, setting the stage for more complex language development.

  • Foundational Communication Behaviors: Infants engage in essential early communication through basic vocalizations and expressions.
  • Developmental Highlights:
    • Smiles when spoken to.
    • Recognizes familiar voices.
    • Turns head towards sounds.
    • Listens to speech and shows response.
    • Repeats sounds like coos, gurgles, and pleasure sounds.
    • Different cries for different needs.
    • Uses phonemes /b/, /p/, and /m/ in babbling.
  • Advancements in Language Understanding and Response:
    • Understands simple commands.
    • Recognizes and responds to their name.
    • Identifies words for common items like "cup" or "shoe."
    • Begins to change babbling to more complex jargon.
    • Uses speech sounds to get attention, beyond crying.
    • Uses nouns predominantly.
    • Expressive vocabulary of 1 to 3 words.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

Birth to 12 Months

  • Coos and babbles
  • Smiles when spoken to
  • Begins to say simple words like "mama"
  • Responds to their name
  • Limited or no babbling
  • May not respond to their name
  • Less or no smiling in response to caregivers
  • Delayed onset of making sounds

For a comprehensive exploration of speech and language development from 0-12 months, please visit this link.

1 to 2 Years: First Words and Simple Sentences

In this stage, toddlers begin transitioning from mere vocalizations to deliberate attempts at communication. Although their speech might still be challenging to understand, it is marked by the emergence of first words and the formation of simple sentences. This period is crucial for developing the ability to use language to interact with their environment and express basic needs and emotions.

  • Transition to Deliberate Communication:
    • Follows simple commands.
    • Identifies body parts.
    • Expressive vocabulary of 3 to 20 words, mostly nouns.
    • Uses adult-like intonation patterns.
    • Begins echolalia and jargon, imitating adult speech.
    • Omits some consonants in speech.
    • Makes requests for desired items.
    • Speech mostly unintelligible but improving.
  • Refining Language Skills:
    • Receptive vocabulary of around 300 words.
    • Expressive vocabulary expands to 50 to 100 words.
    • Begins to use more words than jargon.
    • Names familiar objects accurately.
    • Combines nouns and verbs.
    • Starts using pronouns.
    • Answers basic questions.
    • Speech is 25-50% intelligible to strangers.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

1 to 2 Years

  • Speaks simple sentences.
  • Follows simple commands.
  • Recognizes names of familiar objects.
  • Shows interest in social games (e.g., peek-a-boo).
  • Possible lack of spoken words.
  • Might not follow social cues as expected.
  • Limited interest in interactive games.
  • Repetitive use of words or phrases (echolalia).

Dive deeper into speech and language milestones for 1-2 years by following this link.

2 to 3 Years: Rapid Vocabulary Expansion

Toddlers experience a significant leap in language development during this period. Their vocabulary rapidly expands, and they start to form more complex sentences. This stage is characterized by a mix of growing clarity in speech and the development of grammatical understanding, although some pronunciation challenges may still persist.

  • Complex Speech and Grammar Development:
    • Receptive vocabulary of 500 - 900 words.
    • Points to pictures when named.
    • Follows two-step commands and answers questions.
    • Enjoys stories, songs, and rhymes.
    • Expressive vocabulary of 50-250 words.
    • Asks simple questions.
    • Requests items by name.
    • Begins to verbalize toilet needs.
    • Starts using prepositions, articles, verb tenses, plurals, contractions.
    • Speech becomes 50-75% intelligible.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

2 to 3 Years

  • Rapid vocabulary expansion.
  • Begins to use two- to three-word sentences.
  • Follows simple instructions.
  • Shows curiosity about the environment.
  • Speech may be less clear.
  • Limited vocabulary or repetitive language patterns.
  • Difficulty in following instructions.
  • May show limited curiosity or unusual focus on specific items.

To learn more about the 2-3 years speech and language journey, click on this link.

3 to 4 Years: Language for Communication

At this age, children's language skills become more sophisticated. They begin to use language not just for basic communication but also for storytelling and asking questions. This stage is crucial for the development of narrative skills and the ability to engage in more complex conversations, laying a foundation for future academic and social interactions.

  • Sophisticated Language Skills:
    • Receptive vocabulary of 1,200 to 2,000 words.
    • Identifies objects and understands their functions.
    • Asks and answers more complex questions.
    • Follows multi-part commands.
    • Becomes aware of past and future.
    • Expressive vocabulary of 800 to 1,500 words.
    • Uses emotions in language.
    • Constructs 4 to 5 word sentences.
    • Uses contractions, irregular plurals, future tense, conjunctions.
    • Masters 50% of consonant blends, 80% intelligible speech.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

3 to 4 Years

  • Constructs complete sentences.
  • Understands and tells simple stories.
  • Engages in imaginative play.
  • Begins to use language for problem-solving.
  • Challenges in sentence construction.
  • May not engage in storytelling.
  • Play may be less imaginative.
  • Using language for requests rather than conversation.

Explore detailed insights into speech and language progress for 3-4 years here.

4 to 5 Years: Refined Language Skills

Children's language abilities continue to grow in sophistication during these years. They begin to form complex sentence structures and can understand and respond to more complex instructions and questions. This period is vital for developing the language skills necessary for entering a more structured educational environment.

  • Advanced Understanding and Expression:
    • Receptive vocabulary of 2,800 words.
    • Understands spatial concepts.
    • Expressive vocabulary of 900 to 2,000 words.
    • Uses grammatically correct sentences of 4 to 8 words.
    • Answers complex questions.
    • Discusses experiences in different settings.
    • Pays attention to stories and responds to questions.
    • Uses various grammatical structures.
    • Produces consonants with 90% accuracy, mostly intelligible to strangers.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

4 to 5 Years

  • Understands complex instructions.
  • Uses language to express thoughts and feelings.
  • Begins to understand rules of conversation.
  • Enjoys jokes and plays with language.
  • May require support to understand complex instructions.
  • Possible difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions.
  • Challenges in understanding social communication rules.
  • May not respond to humor in typical ways.

For an in-depth article on speech and language development between 4-5 years, visit this link.

5 to 6 Years: Language for Learning and Socializing

As children approach school age, their language development gears them for more structured academic and social communication. They develop the ability to interact meaningfully with peers and adults and start using language in more diverse contexts, including learning and socialization in school settings.

  • Preparation for Structured Communication:
    • Follows group instructions and 3-part commands.
    • Engages in complex questioning.
    • Receptive vocabulary of about 13,000 words.
    • Knows days of the week, colors, shapes.
    • Counts and recites rhymes.
    • Uses detailed sentences with appropriate grammar.
    • Communicates effectively with adults and peers.
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

5 to 6 Years

  • Can tell detailed stories.
  • Understands and uses a wide range of vocabulary.
  • Engages in conversations with adults and peers.
  • Begins to understand figurative language.
  • Stories may be less detailed or structured.
  • Limited vocabulary or difficulties in conversation.
  • Social communication can be challenging.
  • Figurative language may be taken literally.

Uncover more about the 5-6 years phase of speech and language evolution by clicking here.

6 to 7 Years: Advanced Language Skills

This stage marks the final stretch of language development before children transition to primary school. Their language skills are now well-developed, with a deeper understanding of complex concepts and the ability to express themselves with advanced sentence structures. These skills are key in preparing them for the formal learning environment of primary school.

  • Mature Language Development:
    • Recognizes letters, numbers, and basic concepts.
    • Understands left and right, sequences numbers.
    • Uses complex descriptions in conversations.
    • Receptive vocabulary of approximately 20,000 words.
    • Uses 6-word sentences.
    • Grasps time concepts.
    • Recites the alphabet, counts to
Age Typical Development Special Needs/Autism

6 to 7 Years

  • Reads and writes simple sentences.
  • Understands and uses complex grammar.
  • Engages in group discussions.
  • Can express a range of emotions and ideas.
  • Reading and writing skills may be developing at a different pace.
  • May struggle with complex grammar.
  • Group interactions can be challenging.
  • Expression of emotions and ideas may be limited or atypical.

To delve into the specifics of speech and language growth from 6-7 years, follow this link.

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Free Speech Consultation is an introductory kind of consultation for speech and language-related issues. The initial consultation includes screening the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, interviewing the caretaker, observing, and interacting with the client

Developmental Red Flags

As we navigate through the exciting journey of speech and language development, it's important to be aware of certain signs that may indicate potential challenges or delays. The following table, titled 'Developmental Red Flags,' is designed to help parents, caregivers, and educators recognize signs that might warrant further evaluation or professional consultation. These red flags do not necessarily mean there is a definite issue, but they can serve as important indicators for seeking additional support or assessment. Early identification and intervention can make a significant difference in a child's communication skills and overall development.

Neonatal period The infant shows no reaction to loud noises. Insufficient muscle tone in the infant for feeding. The caregiver exhibits a lack of interest or concern towards the infant.
2 months No response to voices. Unable to lift head while lying on stomach. Absence of focus on faces or objects.
4 months Absence of cooing or gurgling noises. Incapable of bringing hands to the center of the body. Does not smile.
6 months Does not orient towards sounds or voices. Unable to transfer objects between hands. Absence of smiles, laughter, or varied facial expressions.
9 months Does not babble using consonant sounds. Cannot sit independently or roll over. No reciprocal smiling or vocalizing in interactions.
12 months Fails to respond to their name and doesn't comprehend the meaning of "no." Unable to stand or support weight on legs even with assistance. Shows a lack of or resistance to forming an attachment with the caregiver and doesn't follow caregiver's pointing.
15 months Not using words like "mama" or "dada/papa." Lacks the ability to perform a pincer grasp. Does not point to objects of desire (lacking proto-imperative pointing).
18 months Uses fewer than six words. Unable to walk on their own. Does not point to indicate interest (lacking proto-declarative pointing) or use showing gestures.
24 months Absence of speech and two-word meaningful phrases. Cannot follow basic instructions. Unable to walk proficiently. Fails to mimic actions or words of caregivers. Limited eye contact.
36 months Cannot construct sentences with three words. Often falls or struggles with using stairs. Does not engage in pretend play.
4 years Speech is not easily understood. Fails to respond to straightforward questions. Does not use pronouns appropriately. Unable to jump on the spot. Does not interact with peers.
5 years Cannot engage in rhyming. Fails to identify shapes, letters, or colors. Shows reluctance towards dressing, sleeping, and toilet use. Unable to create drawings, draw a square, or a cross. Exhibits issues with balance. Exhibits excessive fearfulness, sadness, shyness, or anger. Struggles to differentiate between reality and fantasy.
6-12 years Unable to recap a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Incapable of skipping or hopping on one foot. Cannot write own name. Does not identify friends by name. Struggles to perceive emotions in others.
Any age Loss of previously acquired skill.

Speech and Language Milestones for Children with Special Needs or Autism

Understanding Unique Challenges

Children with special needs or autism often experience speech and language development differently from their typically developing peers. Their milestones may vary significantly, both in timing and in the manner of acquisition. For instance:

  • Delayed Milestones: Children with autism or special needs might reach speech and language milestones later than expected. This delay can manifest in various ways, such as later onset of babbling, fewer words spoken, or difficulty in forming sentences.
  • Repetitive or Atypical Language: Some children with autism might develop unique language patterns, like repeating phrases (echolalia) or using language in unusual ways.
  • Social Communication Challenges: Children with autism often find social aspects of communication challenging. This can include difficulties in understanding body language, tone of voice, or the subtleties of conversation.
  • Sensory Processing Issues: Many children with special needs have sensory sensitivities that can affect their communication. For example, they might be overwhelmed by too much noise or find it hard to focus on speech when there are visual distractions.

Tailored Strategies for Development

Supporting speech and language development in children with special needs or autism requires tailored strategies that address their unique challenges:

  • Early Intervention: Early identification and intervention are crucial. The sooner support is provided, the better the outcomes in language development. This often involves a team of professionals, including speech therapists, pediatricians, and special educators.
  • Structured Learning Environments: Children with special needs often benefit from structured learning environments that reduce sensory overload and provide clear, consistent routines.
  • Visual Supports: Using visual aids like picture cards or schedules can help in communication, especially for children who find verbal communication challenging.
  • Encourage Play and Social Interaction: Engaging in play-based activities and encouraging interaction with peers can help in developing social communication skills.
  • Parent and Educator Training: Educating and training parents and educators on how to effectively communicate and interact with children with special needs is vital. They can learn techniques to encourage language development, like using simple, clear language and reinforcing communication attempts.
  • Incorporate Interests: Using topics or objects of interest to the child can motivate them to engage in communication.
  • Speech Therapy: Professional speech therapy can provide personalized strategies to improve communication skills, focusing on both verbal and non-verbal language.

How Speech Therapy Can Help Reach Speech and Language Milestones

Importance of Speech Therapy

  • Early Identification and Intervention: Discuss how early identification of speech and language issues can lead to more effective interventions.
  • Customized Approach: Explain how speech therapists assess each child's unique needs and develop personalized strategies to support their development.

Role of Speech Therapists

  • Assessment and Goal Setting: Describe the process of evaluating a child's speech and language skills and setting appropriate goals.
  • Techniques and Activities: Provide examples of activities and techniques used by speech therapists to enhance language development, such as articulation exercises, language stimulation, and play-based learning.

Online Speech Therapy: A Convenient Alternative

Advantages of Online Therapy

  • Accessibility and Convenience: Highlight how online therapy provides access to services for families who might not have local specialists or who face mobility challenges.
  • Technology Integration: Discuss the use of interactive tools and digital resources that can make online therapy engaging for children.

Choosing an Online Speech Therapist

  • Qualifications and Experience: Offer advice on what to look for in an online speech therapist, such as credentials, experience, and specialization in pediatric speech therapy.
  • Finding the Right Fit: Emphasize the importance of finding a therapist who connects well with the child and meets their specific needs.

Effectiveness of Online Therapy

  • Present research or statistics showing the effectiveness of online speech therapy compared to traditional in-person therapy.


Understanding and supporting speech and language development in children with special needs or autism is essential. These children often face unique challenges, but with tailored strategies and early intervention, significant progress can be made. Parents, educators, and therapists play a critical role in this journey. It's important for caregivers to seek age-specific information and professional guidance to best support each child's individual needs.

Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers

Using sign language with babies and toddlers, particularly those who are pre-verbal or have speech delays, can be a powerful way to facilitate early communication. It allows children to express their needs and feelings before they can speak, reducing frustration for both the child and parents. Teaching sign language can start as early as 6 months old. Simple signs like "eat," "more," "all done," and "milk" are usually introduced first. This form of communication not only aids in reducing tantrums but also has been shown to potentially boost verbal language development. Parents and caregivers can learn basic signs and incorporate them into their daily routines, making it a fun and interactive learning experience.

Building a Language-Rich Environment at Home

Creating a language-rich environment at home involves more than just speaking to children. It includes engaging in meaningful conversations, reading books together, singing songs, and providing opportunities for children to express themselves. This can be done by narrating everyday activities, asking open-ended questions, and encouraging children to describe their thoughts and feelings. Displaying books and reading materials around the house, playing word games, and limiting screen time in favor of interactive play can also contribute to a stimulating language environment. Such a setting nurtures language development, enhances vocabulary, and lays a solid foundation for literacy skills.

Importance of Play in Language Development

Play is a fundamental component in a child's language development. Through play, children learn to communicate, negotiate, and express their ideas and emotions. Activities like role-playing, storytelling, and pretend games allow children to experiment with language in a safe and imaginative way. Interactive play with parents, caregivers, or other children also encourages social language use, teaching children important conversational skills and how to read non-verbal cues. Incorporating educational toys that promote language skills, like puzzles with words or electronic devices that speak, can further enhance language development through play.

Effective Communication Techniques with Young Children

Communicating effectively with young children involves clear, simple, and direct language. It's important to get down to the child's level physically, making eye contact, and using expressions and gestures to reinforce verbal messages. Active listening is key – showing children that their words are valued encourages them to express themselves more. Repetition and rephrasing help reinforce language and understanding. Praise and positive reinforcement for attempts at communication can boost a child's confidence in their language abilities. Encouraging turn-taking in conversations, allowing the child ample time to respond, and being patient with their efforts at speaking are also crucial in developing effective communication skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the first year, infants typically start with basic vocalizations, respond to voices, begin babbling, and eventually use simple words. They also learn to recognize familiar voices and respond to their name.
Parents can look for signs like delayed babbling, limited use of words, or not responding to their name. Comparing their child's progress to standard milestones can give an indication of potential delays.
Children usually start forming simple sentences between 1 to 2 years of age. This includes using basic two-word phrases and starting to combine nouns and verbs.
Between 2 to 3 years, children experience rapid vocabulary expansion, begin asking simple questions, and form sentences with 3 to 4 words. Their speech clarity also improves during this period.
Between 3 to 4 years, children develop more sophisticated language skills, including the ability to ask and answer complex questions, follow multi-part commands, and use language for storytelling.
Encouraging reading together, engaging in conversations, playing language-rich games, and providing a stimulating language environment at home can significantly support language development.
Children with special needs or autism might experience different or delayed speech and language milestones. They may show unique language patterns or face challenges in social communication and sensory processing.
Tailored strategies for children with autism include early intervention, structured learning environments, visual supports, speech therapy, and encouraging play and social interactions.
By the age of 5, most children's speech is quite clear. If a child's speech is not mostly intelligible, it may be beneficial to consult a speech therapist for an assessment.
Speech therapy can provide customized approaches and specialized activities to address specific areas of need in a child's speech and language development.
Concerns should arise if there are significant delays in reaching milestones, like not babbling by 12 months, not speaking single words by 16 months, or not using two-word phrases by 2 years. However, every child develops at their own pace, so it's important to consult a pediatrician or a speech therapist for a professional assessment.
Bilingualism does not cause speech delays. Children learning two languages may mix elements of both languages in their early years, but this is a normal part of bilingual language development. They typically follow the same developmental patterns as monolingual children for each language.
A 'late bloomer' will generally catch up to their peers naturally, showing steady progress in language development. However, if there's little to no progress or if your child shows frustration or difficulties in communication, it might indicate a speech or language disorder.
Parents play a critical role. Engaging in regular, meaningful conversations, reading together, encouraging expressive language use, and providing a rich and varied language environment can significantly support a child's speech and language development.
Encouraging slow and clear speech, modeling correct pronunciation, practicing speech sounds through playful activities, and if needed, seeking assistance from a speech therapist can help improve speech clarity.
Yes, activities like singing, reading aloud, using rhymes, practicing tongue twisters, and engaging in conversations about daily activities can help. For children with more significant delays, structured activities designed by speech therapists can be particularly beneficial.
Early signs can include delayed speech development, limited eye contact, not responding to their name, preference for playing alone, and repetitive use of words or phrases.
Excessive screen time, especially if not interactive, can limit opportunities for verbal communication and interaction, which are essential for speech and language development. It's important to balance screen time with interactive, engaging activities that promote language use.
Early signs may include a lack of response to their name, limited babbling, unusual tone of voice, delayed speech milestones, and a lack of interest in social interaction or communication.
Use simple, clear language, and visual aids like picture cards. Be patient, listen attentively, and encourage non-verbal forms of communication like gestures or sign language.
Engage in activities that interest your child and incorporate them into communication opportunities. Also, create a routine that includes regular time for interactive activities like reading or singing together.
Yes, speech therapists often use techniques tailored for autism, including play-based therapy, Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS), and therapies focusing on social communication skills.
Regularly consult with your child's speech therapist or pediatrician. They can provide assessments and guidance on your child's progress and suggest adjustments to their therapy or communication strategies.
Alternative communication methods, like sign language or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, can be very beneficial, especially for children who have difficulty with verbal communication.
Reinforce the techniques used in speech therapy at home. This could include specific exercises, using communication aids, and creating opportunities for your child to communicate in a supportive environment.
Stay calm and patient. Offer comfort and try to understand the cause of the frustration. Use simple words and visual aids to communicate and try to address their needs.
Yes, group activities can provide social interaction and help develop communication skills. Ensure these activities are supervised and structured to meet your child's specific needs.
Siblings can play a supportive role by engaging in conversation, playing interactive games, and modeling appropriate speech and language behaviors in a natural setting.

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