What is Language Delay in Children?
Parents often ask us how to know when a child is delayed in language development. To answer that question, we have put together these guidelines. (This topic is on our recently revamped website, along with other useful information regarding speech, language, and reading.)
Research shows that children acquire the various components that comprise language in discrete stages, with each stage being associated with an age range. For example, although the emergence of single words occurs, on average, at 12 months, most children acquire first words at somewhere between 10 and 14 months. This is the typical range. All developmental language stages are defined by an age range rather than specific age. When children fail to reach language milestones in a timely manner, but they are acquiring the steps in the typical sequence, that is considered to be a language delay. There is an overall lag in development. It is one of the most common developmental lags affecting young children, and is found in 5-10% of the population. The age ranges for developmental milestones for language acquisition are:
- Cooing - open vowels such as "ah"- 1-3 months
- Babbling with respect to consonants and vowels - 3-6 months
- Reduplicative babbling, as in "bababababa nanana" - 6-9 months
- Jargon - strings of sounds that sound like speech with inflection that is typical of the child's native language - 9-18 months
- First words - 10-14 months
- Word combinations - 18-24 months-when child has an expressive vocabulary of 50 words
- Short Sentences - 24-30 months
- Adult-like grammar - 3 years (You should still expect to see errors in more complex aspects of language, such as irregular past tense.) Child should be intelligible approximately 80% of the time with strangers. Children with a language delay are achieving language milestones more slowly than their typically developing peers.
To help your child with a language delay, our therapists will perform an analysis of your child's spontaneous verbalizations. Since children learn to speak in a fairly dependable sequence, we note where your child's communication skills are faltering. With younger preschool children, our therapy utilizes well established play therapy techniques that gently nudge your child's speech forward. By modeling and making the target utterance salient, we help your child acquire increasingly complex vocabulary and sentence structure. For older children, we may also utilize structured techniques that essentially cause the same result with material that is more age appropriate. Either way, your child gets what he or she needs to improve language skills. In addition, since children with delays are at risk for reading issues, we provide our KidsVoyager Online Phonic Engine Software, along with training in its use for school-age children, and pre-literacy counseling to parents of pre-school children, which you may use with your child starting at about age 3.