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How to Determine if a Child Needs Speech Therapy or if Their Speech is Age-Appropriate


When it comes to your child's speech development, it's essential to recognize whether they require professional assistance from a speech therapist. At Chit Chat Speech Therapy, our experienced speech therapists in Minnesota are dedicated to providing top-notch services tailored to your child's needs. Contact us online or at 763-280-3202 to schedule a free consultation today.



Typical Speech Development Milestones in Children

It's crucial to understand the typical speech development milestones that children go through to determine if their speech is age-appropriate or if they require speech therapy.


Birth to 12 Months

During this period, children develop their communication skills by babbling, cooing, and imitating sounds. They also start recognizing familiar voices and responding to their names. Most children have said their first word by 12 months of age.


12 to 24 Months

In this phase, toddlers expand their vocabulary by learning new words and simple phrases. They also begin to understand basic instructions and engage in two-word sentences. Most children (90%) are saying 2-word sentences and have at least 50 words in their vocabulary by 24 months of age. 


2 to 3 Years

Children at this age can speak in short sentences, ask questions, and understand more complex instructions. Their speech should be intelligible (how much one can understand) to familiar listeners, although they may still struggle with some pronunciation issues. They should be using words like “in, on, under,” follow 2-step directions, and asking “why” questions. 


3 to 4 Years

By this stage, children can speak in longer sentences, use more complex grammar, and carry on conversations with others. Their speech should be mostly intelligible to unfamiliar listeners, with only occasional mispronunciations and grammatical errors.


This graphic shows the sounds that 90% of children have developed by the end of the corresponding age. 

















Signs That Your Child May Need Speech Therapy

If your child's speech development is not following the typical milestones or if you notice any of the following signs, it may be time to consult a speech therapist:


Difficulty Understanding or Following Instructions

Children who struggle to understand or follow instructions may have a receptive language disorder, which can be addressed through speech therapy. This includes specific concept words like “under, above, first, last, middle, behind,” etc as well as multi-step directions like “Throw this away for me then grab your shoes.” 


Pronunciation Problems

While it's normal for young children to have some difficulty with pronunciation, persistent issues may indicate a need for speech therapy to help them develop clearer speech. Please see the above graphic to determine if the sounds your child is struggling with is age appropriate or not. If a child has any sound errors after the age of 8, they should be assessed to determine if speech therapy is necessary or not as 90% of children have mastered all sounds by the age of 8.


Limited Vocabulary

If your child has a limited vocabulary compared to their peers or struggles to learn new words, they may benefit from speech therapy to improve their language skills. Things to notice would be sentence length, how descriptive a child is compared to peers, or retaining newly learned words.


Stuttering or Repetitive Speech Patterns

Stuttering and repetitive speech patterns can be frustrating for children and may lead to social or academic challenges. Speech therapy can help address these issues and improve overall communication skills.


Social Communication Issues

Children who have difficulty making eye contact, understanding social cues, or engaging in conversations may benefit from speech therapy to improve their social communication skills.


Benefits of Speech Therapy for Children

Speech therapy can provide numerous benefits for children facing speech and language challenges, including:


Improved Communication Skills

By working with a speech therapist, children can develop better communication skills, enabling them to express themselves more clearly and understand others more effectively. This leads to increased confidence and social skills as well.


Increased Confidence and Self-Esteem

As children improve their speech and language skills, they often become more confident in social situations and develop a stronger sense of self-esteem.


Enhanced Academic Performance

Strong communication skills are essential for academic success; particularly speech sounds and vocabulary as they relate to reading and writing skills. Speech therapy can help children overcome speech and language difficulties that may be holding them back in school.


Better Social and Emotional Development

Children who receive speech therapy can improve their social and emotional development by learning how to navigate social situations and build stronger relationships with peers and family members. This includes solving their own problems as well as knowing the difference between solving a problem independently and when and how to ask for assistance.


How to Support Your Child's Speech Development at Home

While professional speech therapy is an invaluable resource for children with speech and language challenges, there are also several ways you can support your child's speech development at home:


Encourage Conversation

Engage your child in conversations throughout the day to help them practice their speaking and listening skills. Ask open-ended questions and provide ample opportunities for them to express their thoughts and feelings. If they can’t yet answer open ended questions, give them some options as possible answers as this relieves them of a cognitive load and can help continue the conversation between the two of you.


Read Together

Reading with your child is an excellent way to expose them to new vocabulary and sentence structures. Choose age-appropriate books and encourage your child to participate in reading by asking questions or having them repeat words and phrases. If your child is working on a specific sound, feel free to point it out every now and then and have them practice. Reading also allows for a great time to pause and ask comprehension questions to make sure your child is comprehending the necessary story elements. 


Play Language-Based Games

Games that involve speaking, listening, and understanding can be a fun and engaging way to support your child's speech development. Try playing games like "I Spy," "20 Questions," or "Simon Says" to build communication skills in a playful context. You can also take any board game and before they take their turn they have to practice a skill (i.e. speech sound in a word/sentence, answer a question, define vocabulary, etc).


Model Clear Speech

Demonstrate clear and expressive speech when communicating with your child, as this will help them learn proper pronunciation and intonation. Avoid using baby talk, as it can be confusing for children learning to speak correctly. We call it “motherese” and it’s great for infants, but after a year a child no longer needs this type of speech.


Be Patient and Supportive

Your child may become frustrated or self-conscious about their speech difficulties, so it's essential to be patient and supportive. Encourage their efforts, and celebrate their progress to help build confidence and resilience. Make sure to give positive reinforcement even if they’re trying but can’t get it, such as. “I love how hard you’re trying, you almost got it!”


When to Seek Professional Help

If you have concerns about your child's speech development or notice persistent issues despite your efforts at home, it's crucial to consult a speech therapist for a professional evaluation. Early intervention can make a significant difference in addressing speech and language challenges, and improving your child's overall communication skills and quality of life.


Contact a Speech Therapist in Minnesota

If you're concerned about your child's speech and language development, the team at Chit Chat Speech Therapy is here to help. Our skilled speech therapists can assess your child's needs and develop a personalized treatment plan to support their growth and development. To learn more about our services or schedule a consultation, contact us at 763-280-3202 or send us a message online.

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