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Ms. Amanda Cunningham

434-846-2151 ext. 21049
Classes Taught: 
Speech and Language Therapy

This article is taken from  Parent Articles by Communication Skill Builders


by Carolyn A. Weiner, M.A., CCC

Parents are often the first adults to notice a possible delay in their child's speech or language development. Your child's speech may not be clear. Or, your child may use shorter sentences than other children the same age. This observation generally leads to three questions:

1. Is my child's speech or language delayed?

Speech skills are different from language skills. Language refers to the use of words and sentences to convey ideas. Speech is the production of sounds that make up the words and sentences.

Using developmental milestones, such as lthose listed below, you can compare your child's development with that of other children the same age. Read the description and ask yourself the quesions listed. You can get an idea if our child's communication skills are aobut the same, higher thank or lower than expected.

Use caution when applying any measure of development to your child. Individual differences or special circumstances need to be accounted for. This can be done by consulting with your school's speech and language clinician or by checking with your local speech and hearing clinic.

Milestones of Speech and Language Development:

  • One-year old children should be able to understand a variety of words and should be using a few single words.
  • By age two, words should be combined into two- and three-word phrases and sentences.
  • Between the ages of three and five, children learn to carry on a conversation, ask and answer questions, follow and give directions, and speak alone in the presence of a group. These skills are important to success in kindergarten.
  • After age five, sentences become increasingly complex. Children begin using words like "when", "while", and "since" to relate two or more ideas in a single sentence. The language level used by teachers and textbooks assumes that children have this skill by the age of seven or eight.
  • As a rule, children use understandable speech by age four and use all speech sounds correctly by age five to seven.


2. At what point should I be concerned about my child's development?

    Both social and academic success depend on well developmed speech and language skills. Your child may be having difficulty developing these skills if:

a. Your child has experienced dear infections or an unusually long stay (6 months or more) in the hospital.

b. The child is not understood by playmates or others outside the immediate family.

c. The child is frustrated when trying to communicate and the situation does not improve over a one- or two-month period.

d. There is a delay of one year or more in develo9ping speech and language skills. For example, here is a sample  of problems one migh observe (compiled by Beth Witt).

Three year-old:

  • Says only one or two words at a time.
  • Cannot answer "what" or "who" questions.
  • Speech is not comprehensible except in context.
  • Does not seem to hear or understand all that is said; seems to "tune-out" what others say.
  • Does not start conversations. Speaks only when spoken to.
  • Does not understand spoken directions without visual assistance from pointing and other gestures.
  • Repeats what other say rather than responding.


Four year-old:

  • Talks in only two- or three- word phrases. Word order is poor.
  • Cannot answer simple "what", "where," or "why" questions
  • Sentences or words are jumbled and disordered- h ard to understand.
  • Does not talk to peers or adults unless prodded, and then talks as little as possible.
  • Does not respond to simple two-step directions: "Go to the kitchen. Bring me a spoon."
  • Cannot listen to two or three lines of a story and answer simple questions about what was read.

Five year-old:

  • Talks in only three- or four-word sentences about present events.
  • Cannot answer questons about "yesterday" or "tomorrow". Cannot answer "how" questions.
  • Poor articulation is still a problem. Child's speech is unclear.
  • Talks a great deal, but remarks may not be relevant to the situation.
  • Has trouble sitting and litening to story of more than four or five sentences without "tuning out.

If any of these problems exist, It is recommended that you have your child's speech and language screened, evaluated or tested.



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