A child learning to speak can be one of the most rewarding sounds for a parent. It can also be a stressful time trying to anticipate when a child will start talking clearly. From ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ to sentences and silly conversations, we hope that our loved ones get started and make linear progress as early as possible.
If you start to notice your child not meeting certain developmental achievements, it can be cause for concern – but it’s certainly not time to panic yet. Getting professional assessments and treatments
In this piece, we’ll cover:
- At what age should a child start speaking clearly?
- Stages of speech development
- Signs of delayed speech development
- What can cause speech and language delays in children?
- How to get help for children with delayed speech
This information should help you to make an informed decision about whether your child may require an assessment or follow-up regarding their speech development.
At What Age Should a Child Start Speaking Clearly?
The reality is that all children are unique, and while there is no set age for children to start talking clearly, there are developmental milestones for certain age ranges. This is especially true for children with autism, and we often have to adjust accordingly.
By conventional standards, most children should have these results at the listed ages:
- 12 months (1 year): Speak their first words
- 24 months (2 years): Have 50-75% of their words be understood by familiar people
- 36 months (3 years): Have 75-100% of their words understood by familiar people
- 48 months (4 years): Be understood by both familiar and unfamiliar people
There is also a wide range of what ‘speaking clearly’ means depending on their home environment, health conditions, and any developmental differences they might have. For a child with autism, there might be co-existing delays that cause them to not be understood clearly despite having the verbal capability.
Stages of Speech Development
When trying to track a child’s speech and language development, there are different stages that a child may fit into independently of fully clear speech. These stages include:
Babbling: This is where we see children start to listen, pay attention to speech patterns, and emulate them. First words are often formed here, and this stage will often occur by 6-9 months.
Indicating: This stage of speech development for children should include gestures, pointing, and attempting to create small strings of words even if they are not understood clearly. This typically occurs after one year to 18 months.
Requesting: Children should be able to form individual words and ask for things such as food, toys, or attention. This stage might develop between 18 months and 2 years.
Conversation: This stage is when children can fully form thoughts and articulate them, receive information, and have a dialogue based on new thoughts. This stage can occur as early as two years old but may take until a child is four years old or more to develop.
The timing and mastery of these stages of speech can all be affected by a child’s environment, developmental delays, and other internal or external stressors. With this in mind, it is still important to pay attention to signs of potential speech delays.
Signs of Delayed Speech Development:
Just like speaking clearly and reaching the different stages of development, children might exhibit signs of speech delays at various times for unique reasons. However, if you are starting to notice multiple signs, it can be cause for concern. These signs include:
1. Not gesturing by 12 months
2. Not babbling by 12-18 months
3. Has trouble imitating sounds and gestures by 18 months
4. Doesn’t recognize their own name by 2 years old
5. Not talking in short sentences by 3 years old
6. Unable to tell a simple story by 4 to 5 years old
These signs are worth paying attention to, especially if your child is exhibiting multiple symptoms of speech delay late in the range of normal development. Make sure to talk to your pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist if you believe your child might be exhibiting a speech delay.
What Can Cause Speech and Language Delays in Children?
The most common causes of speech delays in children can include:
- Hearing Loss
- Intellectual disabilities
- Developmental disabilities
- Apraxia of speech or motor skills delays
- Environmental factors
For children with autism, a speech delay might present as a result of multiple factors in their development and response to certain environments. Make sure to discuss any potential issues and treatments with a licensed ABA therapist so they can be integrated into your child’s framework.
How to Get Help for Delayed Speech
If your child exhibits speech delays, you may want to enroll them in speech therapy. Talk to your pediatrician for appropriate referrals to a licensed speech-language pathologist
For children with autism, speech therapy can take place at a private clinic, at school, or at home. We recommend using a speech-language pathologist who can work in conjunction with an ABA therapy clinic. This way, the evidence-based principles of ABA therapy can be applied to give your child the best chance to succeed.
Get Your Child The Best Help For Speech Delays
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, our team of experts is prepared to help get the best results for your child. We have decades of experience combining the evidence-based principles of ABA Therapy with therapy from our top-notch speech-language pathologists.
If you are interested in learning more about how to get the best-integrated care for autism in Arizona, please reach out to us now. One conversation could change your child’s future for the better.