When Should You Worry If Your Child Isn’t Talking?

If your toddler isn’t talking yet, you might feel a bit worried. Are they on track or falling behind? Are they simply a late bloomer? Every child develops at their own pace, so answering this question can be tough.

However, it's important to identify and recognize speaking challenges early on. The sooner you can give your child the support they need, the better. In this article, we'll cover what a speech delay is, what age is considered speech delayed, and how to know if you should reach out to a speech therapist for your child. 

What is a speech delay? 

A speech delay is when a child does not meet the typical milestones for speech and language development at their age. Speech delays can happen for a number of reasons, including a lack of verbal stimulation at home, hearing loss, or a developmental disorder. 

If you think your child might have a speech delay, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has outlined some common developmental milestones to keep in mind: 

  • Infant speech milestones include cooing, crying, and responding to sounds. By 3 months, you may hear some simple sounds like "goo," and "ah." 

  • By 6 months, babies usually begin to babble longer strings of consonant-vowel combinations, such as "ba-ba-ba," or "da-da-da.”

  • From 12-24 months, children usually begin to say “no” and start building their vocabulary. They tend to use at least 5 to 10 words regularly, like saying “milk” if they’re thirsty. 

  • Around 2 years old, children can start combining words to form simple two-word phrases. They might also begin to use pronouns (such as me, my, and mine). 

  • By age 3, a toddler’s vocabulary typically expands to 200 to 300 words. They can form short sentences of 3 to 4 words. 

  • By age 4, children are usually able to carry on basic conversations with both their family and unfamiliar individuals. They can also use more complex sentences. 

What age is considered speech delayed? 

A child can be considered speech delayed at any age if they are not meeting the same developmental milestones as other children their age. For example, babies can begin showing the signs of a speech delay as early as 6 months old—at this age, infants typically babble and combine vowels and consonants, like “ga-ga-ga.” If a baby isn’t making these types of noises, it can point to a speech delay. 

For toddlers, you may be able to identify the signs of “late talking” around 15 months. If they haven’t said their first words by then, children at this age could be considered speech delayed. 

When you should worry if your child isn’t talking

Children can experience language development problems from infancy to middle school. But at what age is a speech delay concerning? 

Generally, if your child isn’t responding to sounds or making noises by 6 to 9 months, or hasn’t said their first word by 15 months, it may make sense to begin investigating why. It's a good idea to schedule an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist (sometimes called a speech therapist).  

While your child might just be on their own timeline, they may also have a developmental disorder that needs professional treatment. Studies show that the earlier a child starts speech therapy, the better the outcomes. So if you’re worried that your child isn’t talking, it’s always a good idea to seek support sooner rather than later. 

Should I get a speech evaluation for my child? 

A speech delay doesn’t mean your child can’t grow up to be a confident, expressive communicator. But the sooner you can get them the help they need, the better. 

So what should you do if you’re worried that your child isn’t talking? A speech evaluation is a great place to start. A licensed speech therapist can assess your child’s language development and determine a treatment plan for helping them reach their full potential. 

An evaluation is also beneficial if you’ve noticed any other red flags, such as difficulty understanding instructions or trouble pronouncing words correctly. If the therapist recommends it, speech therapy can be incredibly helpful for children with speech delays and other language development challenges. 

How to find a speech therapist 

At some point or another, many caregivers find themselves worrying about their little one's speech development. The good news is that it's never too late—or too soon—to get your child the support and resources they need to become a confident communicator. 

If you’re ready to find a qualified speech therapist for your child, Expressable can help. After a free consultation to learn more about your communication goals, Expressable matches you with one of our licensed, experienced speech therapists based on your needs, location, and availability (including evenings and weekends). Schedule a free consultation with a licensed speech therapist here!

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