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Communication Guide

Is my child's speech on track?

The development of communication skills begins in infancy, before the emergence of the first word. Any speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child's social and academic skills and behavior. The earlier a child's speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships.  This information represents, on average, the age by which most monolingual speaking children will accomplish the listed skills. Children typically do not master all items in a category until they reach the upper age in each age range. Just because your child has not accomplished one skill within an age range does not mean the child has a disorder. However, if you have answered no to the majority of items in an age range, seek the advice of an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist.
 
Select your child's age below to see developmental milestones for their age group:

Birth to 1 Year
1 to 2 Years
2 to 3 Years
 
3 to 4 Years
4 to 5 Years
Kindergarten
First Grade

Second Grade

Third Grade

Fourth Grade
 
Fifth Grade




 Birth to 1 Year Speech Milestones

What should my child be able to do?
 

Hearing & Understanding

Talking

Birth-3 Months

  • Startles to loud sounds
  • Quiets or smiles when spoken to
  • Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound

Birth-3 Months

  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)
  • Cries differently for different needs
  • Smiles when sees you

 

4-6 Months

  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds
  • Responds to changes in tone of your voice
  • Notices toys that make sounds
  • Pays attention to music

 

4-6 Months

  • Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b and m
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • Makes gurgling sounds when left alone and when playing with you

7 Months-1 Year

  • Enjoys games like peekaboo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns and looks in direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Recognizes words for common items like "cup", "shoe," or "juice"
  • Begins to respond to requests (e.g. "Come here" or "Want more?")

7 Months-1 Year

  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as "tata upup bibibibi"
  • Uses speech or noncrying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has one or two words (bye-bye, dada, mama). although they may not be clear

 

What can I do to help?

    • Check your child's ability to hear, and pay attention to ear problems and infections, especially when they keep occurring. 
    • Reinforce your baby's communication attempts by looking at him or her, speaking, and imitating his or her vocalizations.
    • Repeat his or her laughter and facial expressions.
    • Teach your baby to imitate actions, such as peekaboo, clapping, blowing kisses, pat-a-cake, itsy bitsy spider, and waving bye-bye. These games teach turn taking that is needed for conversation.
    • Talk while you are doing things, such as dressing, bathing, and feeding (e.g., "Mommy is washing Sam's hair"; "Sam is eating carrots"; "Oh, these carrots are good!").
    • Talk about where you are going, what you will do once you get there, and who and what you'll see (e.g., "Sam is going to Grandma's house. Grandma has a dog. Sam will pet the dog.").
    • Talk about colors (e.g., "Sam's hat is red").
    • Practice counting. Count toes and fingers, stairs when you go down them, etc.
Teach animal sounds (e.g., "A cow says 'moo'").


 1 to 2 Year Old Speech Milestones 

What should my child be able to do?

 

Hearing & Understanding

Talking

  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Follows simple commands and understands simple questions ("Roll the ball," "Kiss the baby," "Where's your shoe?").
  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.
  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Says more words every month.
  • Uses some one- or two- word questions ("Where kitty?" "Go bye-bye?" "What's that?").
  • Puts two words together ("more cookie," "no juice," "mommy book").
  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words.

 

 
 
What can I do to help?
 
    • Talk while doing things and going places. When taking a walk in the stroller, for example, point to familiar objects (e.g., cars, trees, and birds) and say their names. "I see a dog. The dog says 'woof.' This is a big dog. This dog is brown."
    • Use simple but grammatical speech that is easy for your child to imitate.
    • Clock, who says "t-t-t-t." Listen to the clock as it ticks. Find Mad Kitty Cat who bites her lif and says "f-f-f-f" or Vinnie Airplane who bites his lip, turns his voice motor on and says "v-v-v-v." These sounds will be old friends when your child is introduced to phonics in preschool and kindergarten.
    • Make bath time "sound playtime" as well. You are eye-level with your child. Play with Peter Tugboat, who says "p-p-p-p." Let your child feel the air of sounds as you make them. Blow bubbles and make the sound "b-b-b-b." Feel the motor in your throat on this sound. Engines on toys can make a wonderful "rrr-rrr-rrr" sound.
    • Expand on words. For example, if your child says "car," you respond by saying, "You're right! That is a big red car."
    • Continue to find time to read to your child every day. Try to find books with large pictures and one or two words or a simple phrase or sentence on each page. When reading to your child, take time to name and describe the pictures on each page.
    • Have your child point to pictures that you name.
    • Ask your child to name pictures. He or she may not respond to your naming requests at first. Just name the pictures for him or her. One day, he or she will surprise you by coming out with the picture' s name


 2 to 3 Year Old Speech Milestones

What should my child be able to do?             
 

Hearing & Understanding

Talking

  • Understands differences in meaning ("go-stop," "in-on," "big-little," "up-down").
  • Follows two requests ("Get the book and put it on the table").

 

  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Uses two- or three- word "sentences" to talk about and ask for things.
  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time.
  • Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them.

 

What can I do to help?
 
  • Use clear, simple speech that is easy to imitate.
  • Show your child that you are interested in what he or she says to you by repeating what he or she has said and expanding on it. For example, if your child says, "pretty flower," you can respond by saying, "Yes, that is a pretty flower. The flower is bright red. It smells good too. Does Sam want to smell the flower?"
  • Let your child know that what she or he has to say is important to you by asking him or her to repeat things that you do not completely understand. For example, "I know you want a block. Tell me again which block you want."
  • Expand on your child's vocabulary. Introduce new vocabulary through reading books that have a simple sentence on each page.
  • Name objects and describe the picture on each page of the book. State synonyms for familiar words (e.g., mommy, woman, lady, grown-up, adult) and use this new vocabulary in sentences to help your child learn it in context.
  • Put objects into a bucket and have your child remove one object at a time, saying its name. You repeat what your child says and expand upon it: "That is a comb. Sam combs his hair." Take the objects from the bucket and help your child group them into categories (e.g., clothes, food, drawing tools).
  • Cut out pictures from old magazines and make a scrapbook of familiar things. Help your child glue the pictures into the scrapbook. Practice naming the pictures, using gestures and speech to show how you use the items.
  • Look at family photos and name the people. Use simple phrases/sentences to describe what is happening in the pictures (e.g., "Sam swims in the pool").
  • Write simple appropriate phrases under the pictures. For example, "I can swim," or "Happy birthday to Daddy." Your child will begin to understand that reading is oral language in print.
  • Ask your child questions that require a choice, rather than simply a "yes" or "no" answer. For example, rather than asking, "Do you want milk? Do you want water?", ask, "Would you like a glass of milk or water?" Be sure to wait for the answer, and reinforce successful communication: "Thank you for telling mommy what you want. Mommy will get you a glass of milk."
  • Continue to sing songs, play finger games ("Where is Thumbkin?"), and tell nursery rhymes ("Hickory Dickory Dock"). These songs and games introduce your child to the rhythm and sounds of language.
  • Strengthen your child's language comprehension skills by playing the yes-no game: "Are you a boy?" "Is that a zebra?" "Is your name Joey?"


 3 to 4 Year Old Speech Milestones

What should my child be able to do?               
 

Hearing & Understanding

Talking

  • Hears you when you call from another room.
  • Hears television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • Understands simple "wh" (who, what, where,why) questions.
  • Talks about activities at school or at friends' homes.
  • Speaks clearly enough that people outside of the family usually understand his or her speech.
  • Uses a lot of sentences that have four or more words.
  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words.
 
What can I do to help?
 
    • Cut out pictures from old catalogs. Then make silly pictures by gluing parts of different pictures together in an improbable way. For example, glue a picture of a dog to the inside of a car as if the dog is driving. Help your child explain what is silly about the picture.
    • Sort pictures and items into categories, but increase the challenge by asking your child to point out the item that does not belong in a category. For example, a baby does not belong with a dog, cat and mouse. Tell your child that you agree with his or her answer because a baby is not an animal.
    • Expand vocabulary and the length of your child' s utterances by reading, singing, talking about what you are doing and where you are going, and saying rhymes.
    • Read books that have a simple plot, and talk about the story line with your child. Help your child to retell the story or act it out with props and dress-up clothes. Tell him or her your favorite part of the story and ask for his or her favorite part.
    • Look at family pictures, and have your child explain what is happening in each one.
    • Work on comprehension skills by asking your child questions. Have him or her try to fool you with his or her own questions. Make this game playful by pretending that you have been fooled by some of his or her really hard questions.
    • Expand on social communication and storytelling skills by "acting out" typical scenarios (e.g., cooking food, going to sleep, or going to the doctor) with a dollhouse and its props. Do the same type of role-playing activity when playing dress-up. As always, ask your child to repeat what he or she has said if you do not understand it completely. This shows that what he or she says is important to you.

 4 to 5 Year Old Speech Milestones 

What should my child be able to do?               
 

Hearing & Understanding

Talking

  • Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about it.
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school.

 

  • Makes voice sounds clear like other children's.
  • Uses sentences that give lots of details (e.g., "I like to read my books").
  • Tells stories that stick to topic.
  • Communicates easily with other children and adults.
  • Says most sounds correctly (except perhaps certain ones such as l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th).
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family.
 
What can I do to help?
 
  • Talk about spatial relationships (first, middle, and last; right and left) and opposites (up and down, big and little).
  • Offer a description or clues and have your child identify what you are describing.
  • Work on forming and explaining categories (fruits, furniture, shapes).
  • Follow your child’s directions as she or he explains how to do something.
  • Give full attention to your child when he or she is speaking, and acknowledge, praise, and encourage him or her afterward. Before you speak to your child, be sure to get his or her undivided attention. Pause after speaking, allowing him or her to respond to what you have said.
  • Build on your child' s vocabulary. Provide definitions for new words, and use them in context: "This vehicle is riding on the highway. It is a car. A bus is another kind of vehicle. So are a train and an airplane."
  • Encourage your child to ask for an explanation if he or she does not understand what a word means.
  • Point out things that are the same or different. Play games incorporating these concepts that he or she will encounter later in the classroom in reading readiness.
  • Sort items into categories. Now try to sort them by pointing out more subtle differences between objects (e.g., rocks that are smooth vs. those that are rough, heavy vs. light, big vs. small). Again, have your child identify the object that does not belong in a given category, but now ask him or her to explain why the item does not belong.
  • Expand on social communication and narration skills (telling a story) by role-playing. Play house, doctor, and store using dialogue, props, and dress-up clothes. Do the same with a dollhouse and its props, acting out scenarios and making the dolls talk.
  • Read stories with easy-to-follow plots. Help your child predict what will happen next in the story. Act out the stories, and put on puppet shows of the stories. Have your child draw a picture of a scene from the story, or of a favorite part. You can do the same thing with videos and television shows, as these also have plots. Ask "wh" questions (who, what, when, where, or why) and monitor his or her response.
  • Expand on your child' s comprehension and expressive language skills by playing "I Spy": "I spy something round on the wall that you use to tell the time." After your child guesses what you have described, have him or her give you clues about something that he or she sees.
  • Give your child two-step directions (e.g., "Get your coat from the closet and put it on"). Encourage your child to give directions to explain how he or she has done something. For example, ask your child to explain how he made a structure out of Lego blocks. When playing doctor, ask your child to explain what she did to give the baby a checkup. Draw a picture, and write down your child's story as he or she tells it. Your child will soon grasp the power of storytelling and written language.
  • Play age-appropriate board games with your child (e.g., "Candyland" or "Chutes and Ladders").
  • Have your child help you plan and discuss daily activities. For example, have him or her make a shopping list for the grocery store, or help you plan his or her birthday party. Ask his or her opinion: "What do you think your cousin would like for his birthday? What kind of fruit do we need to buy at the store?"
 

 Kindergarten

By the end of kindergarten your child should be able to do the following:
 
Listening
  • Follow 1-2 simple directions in a sequence
  • Listen to and understand age-appropriate stories read aloud
  • Follow a simple conversation

Speaking

  • Be understood by most people
  • Answer simple "yes/no" questions
  • Answer open-ended questions (e.g., "What did you have for lunch today?")
  • Retell a story or talk about an event
  • Participate appropriately in conversations
  • Show interest in and start conversations

Reading

  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Understand that spoken words are made up of sounds
  • Identify words that rhyme (e.g., cat and hat)
  • Compare and match words based on their sounds
  • Understand that letters represent speech sounds and match sounds to letters
  • Identify upper- and lowercase letters
  • Recognize some words by sight
  • "Read" a few picture books from memory
  • Imitate reading by talking about pictures in a book.

Writing

  • Print own first and last name
  • Draw a picture that tells a story and label and write about the picture
  • Write upper- and lowercase letters (may not be clearly written)


 First Grade Speech Milestones

By the end of 1st grade your child should be able to do the following:
 
Listening
  • Remember information
  • Respond to instructions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions in a sequence

Speaking           

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex "yes/no" questions
  • Tell and retell stories and events in a logical order
  • Express ideas with a variety of complete sentences
  • Use most parts of speech (grammar) correctly
  • Ask and respond to "wh" questions (who, what, where, when, why)
  • Stay on topic and take turns in conversation
  • Give directions
  • Start conversations

Reading

  • Create rhyming words
  • Identify all sounds in short words
  • Blend separate sounds to form words
  • Match spoken words with print
  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences
  • Sound out words when reading
  • Have a sight vocabulary of 100 common words
  • Read grade-level material fluently
  • Understand what is read

Writing

  • Express ideas through writing
  • Print clearly
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Begin each sentence with capital letters and use ending punctuation
  • Write a variety of stories, journal entries, or letters/notes

 Second Grade Speech Milestones 

By the end of 2nd grade your child should be able to do the following:
 
Listening
  • Follow 3-4 oral directions in a sequence
  • Understand direction words (e.g., location, space, and time words)
  • Correctly answer questions about a grade-level story

Speaking           

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex "yes/no" questions
  • Ask and answer "wh" questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why)
  • Use increasingly complex sentence structures
  • Clarify and explain words and ideas
  • Give directions with 3-4 steps
  • Use oral language to inform, to persuade, and to entertain
  • Stay on topic, take turns, and use appropriate eye contact during conversation
  • Open and close conversation appropriately

Reading

  • Have fully mastered phonics/sound awareness
  • Associate speech sounds, syllables, words, and phrases with their written forms
  • Recognize many words by sight
  • Use meaning clues when reading (e.g., pictures, titles/headings, information in the story)
  • Reread and self-correct when necessary
  • Locate information to answer questions
  • Explain key elements of a story (e.g., main idea, main characters, plot)
  • Use own experience to predict and justify what will happen in grade-level stories
  • Read, paraphrase/retell a story in a sequence
  • Read grade-level stories, poetry, or dramatic text silently and aloud with fluency
  • Read spontaneously
  • Identify and use spelling patterns in words when reading

Writing

  • Write legibly
  • Use a variety of sentence types in writing essays, poetry, or short stories (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Use basic punctuation and capitalization appropriately
  • Organize writing to include beginning, middle, and end
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Progress from inventive spelling (e.g., spelling by sound) to more accurate spelling


 Third Grade Speech Milestones 

By the end of 3rd grade your child should be able to do the following:
 
Listening
  • Listen attentively in group situations
  • Understand grade-level material

Speaking           

  • Speak clearly with an appropriate voice
  • Ask and respond to questions
  • Participate in conversations and group discussions
  • Use subject-related vocabulary
  • Stay on topic, use appropriate eye contact, and take turns in conversation
  • Summarize a story accurately
  • Explain what has been learned

Reading

  • Demonstrate full mastery of basic phonics
  • Use word analysis skills when reading
  • Use clues from language content and structure to help understand what is read
  • Predict and justify what will happen next in stories and compare and contrast stories
  • Ask and answer questions regarding reading material
  • Use acquired information to learn about new topics
  • Read grade-level books fluently (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Reread and correct errors when necessary

Writing

  • Plan, organize, revise, and edit
  • Include details in writing
  • Write stories, letters, simple explanations, and brief reports
  • Spell simple words correctly, correct most spelling independently, and use a dictionary to correct spelling
  • Write clearly in cursive


 Fourth Grade Speech Milestones

By the end of 4th grade your child should be able to do the following:
 

Listening           

  • Listen to and understand information presented by others
  • Form opinions based on evidence
  • Listen for specific purposes

Speaking           

  • Use words appropriately in conversation
  • Use language effectively for a variety of purposes
  • Understand some figurative language (e.g., "the forest stretched across…")
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Give accurate directions to others
  • Summarize and restate ideas
  • Organize information for clarity
  • Use subject area information and vocabulary (e.g., social studies) for learning
  • Make effective oral presentations

Reading

  • Read for specific purposes
  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Use previously learned information to understand new material
  • Follow written directions
  • Link information learned to different subjects
  • Learn meanings of new words through knowledge of word origins, synonyms, and multiple meanings
  • Use reference materials (e.g., dictionary)
  • Explain the author’s purpose and writing style
  • Read and understand a variety of types of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry
  • Compare and contrast in content areas
  • Make inferences from texts
  • Paraphrase content, including the main idea and details

Writing

  • Write effective stories and explanations, including several paragraphs about the same topic
  • Develop a plan for writing, including a beginning, middle, and end
  • Organize writing to convey a central idea
  • Edit final copies for grammar, punctuation, and spelling


 Fifth Grade Speech Milestones

By the end of 5th grade your child should be able to do the following:
 
Listening
  • Listen and draw conclusions in subject area learning activities

Speaking

  • Make planned oral presentations appropriate to the audience
  • Maintain eye contact and use gestures, facial expressions, and appropriate voice during group presentations
  • Participate in class discussions across subject areas
  • Summarize main points
  • Report about information gathered in group activities

Reading

  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Learn meanings of unfamiliar words through knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Prioritize information according to the purpose of reading
  • Read a variety of literary forms
  • Describe development of character and plot
  • Describe characteristics of poetry
  • Analyze author’s language and style
  • Use reference materials to support opinions

Writing

  • Write for a variety of purposes
  • Use vocabulary effectively
  • Vary sentence structure
  • Revise writing for clarity
  • Edit final copies


Source: ASHA.org