Speech Pathology Program
Speech and Language Milestones

By the age of one a baby should:

  • Respond to familiar sounds such as the telephone ringing, the vacuum cleaner or a car in the drive way
  • Understand simple commands such as ‘no’
  • Recognise their own name when called
  • Say ‘dad’, ‘mumma’ and a few other words
  • Enjoy songs, music & books
  • Try to make familiar sounds such as animal noises

By the age of two a toddler should:

  • Say the names of simple body parts
  • Listen to stories & say the names of pictures
  • Understand simple sentences, such as ‘Where’s your shoe?’
  • Use more that 50 words (e.g. no, more gone, teddy)
  • Sing simple songs such as ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’
  • Use some pronouns instead of names, such as ‘he’ or ‘it’.
  • Try simple sentences such as ‘milk all gone’

By the age of three a child should be able to:

  • Understand how objects are used – a crayon is something to draw with
  • Recognise their own needs
  • Follow directions
  • Use 3 to 4 word sentences
  • Begin to use basic grammar
  • Enjoy telling stories & asking questions
  • Have favourite books & television programs
·         Be understood by familiar adults

By the age of four a child should be able to:

  • Understand shape & colour name
  • Understand some time words such as ‘lunchtime’, ‘today’ and ‘winter’
  • Ask who, what and why questions
  • Use lots of words about 900, usually in 4 –5 word sentences
  • Use correct grammar with occasional mistakes such as ‘ I falled down’
  • Use language when playing with other children
  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by most people

By the age of five a child should be able to:

  • Understood opposites such as high & low, wet & dry
  • Use sentences of about 6 words with correct grammar
  • Talk about events that are happening, have happened or might happen
  • Explain why something happens, such as ‘Mum’s car stopped because the petrol ran out
  • Explain the function of objects e.g. this scrunchie keeps my hair away
  • Follow three directions, for example, ‘Stand up, get your shoes on and wait by the door’
  • Say how they feel and tell your ideas
  • Become interested in writing, numbers and reading things
  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by anyone





  • Law et al 2000 Spontaneous remission of speech & language delay is high. 10% - 15% of children have delayed language at 2 years. Up to 60% may resolve without treatment between the ages of 2 & 3


  • However, of the group that do not resolve 60 -65% have problems at 3years of age & 50% of the group that do not resolve have problems at 4 years of age  Even those who resolve their language difficulty at 2 years of age may have multiple educational and social difficulty. That is, 41% - 75% of children that have language delay at some stage of their development will have reading difficulties.


  • Ruben 1996: ‘Language & literacy disorders are disease vectors just as much as a bullet, a virus, a bacterium or an aberrant gene are’.


  • Data from Florida 1997 estimated that every$1.00 spent on early identification saves $7.00 in later special education & welfare costs


  • Critical period that young children need appropriate stimulation for brain to establish the neural pathways for development is years 0-6.  Operates on a use it or lose it principal.


  • Studies indicate if there is one person in a family with a language impairment (LI) there is increased chance of another members also having LI


Families with LI   60%


Families without LI 18%


  • Twin studies confirm an hereditary component    


Lynch And Fox (1980) provide a rough guide as to how well children’s words can be understood by their own parents

  • By 18 months a child’s speech is normally 25% intelligible
  • By 24 months a child’s speech is normally 50 – 75% intelligible
  • By 36 months a child’s speech is normally 75% - 100% intelligible                                                                                                            



Cathy Marson

                                                            B.App.Sc. (SP) MSPA CPSP

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