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  • Shayna Leonard

Should My Child Be Talking?

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

The number one question I get from parents is should their child be talking by now. I usually get this question between ages 1-2. The simple answer to this is usually found on most parenting apps. Typically it is suggested that the first words appear around your child's first birthday. The hard part about this answer is there is so much more to speech and language than expressed words. Often times parents can cause themselves unnecessary stress by fixating on the actual quantity of words. Think about language emergence as a system.


Between the ages of 6 months to 1 year you're going to want to watch for signs of your child engaging in joint attention with caregivers and parents. Are they looking at you, reacting to you when you try to make them laugh, are they handing you toys, are they letting you know when they don't like food, etc. These are all ways that a child shows us they are engaged, interested, and taking in the environment around them. Another important skill is their receptive language abilities, meaning does your child appear to understand you? When you tell them no, do they react? Do they follow simple sequences of behavior, for example, waving bye bye on command. These skills are important building blocks for spoken language.


Even though the skills above do not involve verbal speech, they are signs that your child is heading towards expressing themselves very soon! Around a year to 18 months you may hear some babbling, often times with lots of different vowel and consonant sounds. You may hear approximations (i.e. "ba" for ball). You may even hear their first words. But what if you're not hearing the first words? Be mindful that this time frame is a major developmental window for children. There is so much to learn! A common scenario I see is a family with an 18 month old who isn't talking but has very strong physical capabilities. They are usually very strong walkers, climbers, and overall physical children. What I find is there is only so much a child's brain can handle development wise. Imagine learning two skills you'll use the rest of your life in 6-12 months time! Often times it's one skill and then the other. So don't panic as long as you are seeing those foundational skills, hang tight for a bit and see what your little one surprises you with in the next few months.


If you feel like you've been patient and you're wondering when is the right time to reach out to a speech therapist? The overall benchmark is 200 words by 2 years old. This isn't a hard and fast rule but if by the time your child is 2 they aren't trending up towards 100 words you may want to check in with a specialist. Moral of the story, look at the general trend. Is your kiddo showing signs of communication? Great! Don't get too caught up in a specific timeline. Each child develops at his or her own pace and there is beauty in that journey! Any questions or concerns please reach out at shayna@toddlertalkspeech.com


-Shayna Leonard

M.S., CCC-SLP

CASANA Recognized for Advanced Training

in Childhood Apraxia of Speech

PROMPT Trained



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