Childcare providers and parents should watch children
to see if they might have speech and language disorders. First, know
milestones in speech and language. That will help you decide if
there really is a problem or if the child is doing things that most
children that age do. These are some signs that might indicate a problem:
Possible signs of delayed language or speech
• Babies do not coo, babble,
and make a variety of sounds in the early months of life. They remain
• Children have no real words by age 2.
• Children are not putting two or more words together
by age 3.
• Children seem to know a lot fewer words than other
children their age.
• Children have difficulty putting sentences together
after about 4 years of age. They may leave out words, leave off word
endings, or mix up word order.
• Children have inconsistent and incorrect grammar
for their age. Note: this may be an indication of a learning disability,
it could be that the child has never been taught
Possible signs of problems in understanding language
often repeat or echo things they hear, but it doesn’t make sense
to them. For example, children might be able to
repeat a TV commercial or a poem, but
they can’t answer any questions about it.
• Children can read words in print but do not
understand what they read.
• Children cannot tell you what words mean,
even though most children that age would be able to do that.
• Children can hear well,
but they do not answer questions in a way that shows they understood.
Or children are unable to
follow directions that you provide.
Possible signs of problems in
talking or using language
• Children often point or use signs and gestures
instead of words and sentences.
• Children’s speech is very unclear at 4 years
of age. At this age, strangers should be able to understand children
• Children have lots of trouble with certain speech
sounds. For example, children might say “see” instead of
instead of “rabbit,” etc.
Or they may have trouble using certain letters, such as “l,”
“r,” and “d.”
• Children stutter or stammer so much that they have
trouble talking. Note: Many children might stutter or stammer a little
when they are nervous or excited about something.
This type of stuttering or stammering does not indicate a speech
• Children cannot express their ideas. They have
a hard time describing things and telling people about their ideas,
thoughts, or feelings.
• Children cannot use the right words while talking.
Children may say a related word, such as saying “fork” for
they might use general words over and over,
such as “stuff” and “thing.” They might talk
about what the object does
instead of calling it by its name, for example
saying “pounding thing” for “hammer.” Or they
might mix up sounds, such as
saying “rabby bunnit” for
talk, but they cannot have a conversation. For example, children might
ask questions, but they do not wait for
answers. Or children might keep on talking
forever without giving the other person a chance to respond. They might
on the same topic, or they might jump from
topic to topic.
• Children seem nervous when they have to talk, or
they totally avoid talking to others. Note: Some children may be shy,
nervous, or cautious by nature. It is important
to know the difference between those children and children who may have
speech and language disorders.
When you notice a child displaying several of these
signs over and over again, you should talk to the parents about it.
Remember that talking to parents about possible disorders in their child
can be difficult for both of you. It is important that you communicate
sensitively with parents. You should encourage the parents to have
their child tested so that treatment can start as soon as possible.
If you have speech and language testing available at your center, you
may want to encourage parents to use this service.
children to talk
are some types of speech and language disorders?
and evaluation of speech-language disorders