Children develop in their own ways, and keeping up with those ways can be difficult. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between a developmental delay and a child working on their own calendar.

Nevertheless, differences can be stark when it comes to speech milestones, especially when you spend time with parents with kids around the same age as yours. Again, your 15-month-old’s language delay could still be due to them developing at their own pace, but do you really want to take your chances?

Today, we’ll look at the different stages across a child’s formative years and how he or she should be developing to determine when it would be a good time for the child to get started on speech therapy.

Speech Milestones Across Childhood

What speech developments should you especially watch out for across childhood? Let’s take a look.

First 12 Months

While not much verbal communication goes on during the first year of a child’s life, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any red flags this early on. The earliest possible sign of speech delay is when your youngster shows little to no reaction to the people around them during their first three months of life.

A child who is developing normally should crack a smile now and then and make eye contact with those around them. Thus, it’s worth it to have this lack of social cues investigated.

Let’s also not forget gestures, babbling, and playing. These are typical three-month-and-under activities to expect from your youngster. If these actions are few and far between, or you’re not seeing them at all, it’s recommended you get in touch with a speech-language pathologist.

One Year To One Year and Six Months

At this age range, children are expected to have some sort of vocabulary. They should at least have their first few words down pat and start with a few others. That might not make their lexicon extensive, but it does give it the appropriate amount of substance.

If this “substance” can be classified as the bare minimum and accompanied by a lack of pointing and shaking gestures, that might be a cause for concern. And yes, it should be concerning enough for you to call the SLP’s office and arrange for an appointment.

One Year and Six Months To Two Years

The months leading up to the terrific twos start to see an expansion of your child’s vocabulary. Your youngsters should be learning new words regularly and be able to form short phrases with them. They might be able to form sentences, but not being able to be not a bad thing at this age range. Phrases that combine the thing they want plus the person they want to get it should be a normal thing to hear at this age.

You can expect kids to mispronounce words until about the age of six, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to understand them. If understanding your child’s language is a struggle, then it could mean something more serious is in the works. That’s a sign to see a specialist as soon as possible.

Two To Four Years

At this point, things should be more or less crystal clear about whether or not your child needs speech therapy. If a child’s speech deficiencies persist until this point, that likely rules out the working-on-their-own timeline excuse.

During this stage, the lack of vocabulary and the inability to string several words together can be major issues. Not being able to follow two-word phrase instructions could also be a problem for a toddler who should be able to interpret a statement like “return toy” easily.

Another thing that should alarm you is the lack of interaction and interest shown by your little one. If kids don’t point at something they like or shake their heads at something they don’t, you need to get them to see a specialist. The same goes if they are unable or completely disinterested in asking or answering questions.

If a child doesn’t look over their shoulder after hearing the door bang or you telling them their playmate came to visit, that’s no longer a case of unique development. Also, while the grace period for mispronunciation still applies during the toddler phase, the mispronunciation of vowels and rare use of consonants is extremely uncommon for normally developing children.

The Best Thing To Do

It’s understandable to worry about your child’s seemingly delayed development milestones, but that’s something you shouldn’t allow yourself to be kept in the dark about. You should take the necessary steps to find out whether or not your child’s problems stem from something serious or are simply a case of them developing at their own pace.

Some parents are content to live in denial for a while, but this never turns out well for the child. Potential issues have to be addressed as soon as possible to be remedied or kept from becoming worse and irreversible.