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When Should a Child See a Speech Therapist?

Smiling Child

Common signs of speech delay or communication problems vary by age. If you are concerned about your child's speech or language development, a speech-language pathologist can help identify a communication delay or disorder and set up an individualized therapy plan.

The list below includes signs of speech-language disorders by age.

Signs of Speech-Language Delays or Disorders

1 year of age

• No babbling
• No imitation
• No reaction to sound
• Limited use of gestures

2 years of age

• No first words
• Minimal attempts to communicate
• Difficulty following simple direction
• Inconsistent response to "no"

3 years of age

• Produces at most 2-word phrases
• Limited or no speech sounds
• Speech is not understandable
• Limited understanding of simple questions
• Difficulty naming objects or pictures
• Frustration related to communication

4 years of age

• Produces at most 3-word phrases
• Speech less than 50% intelligible for parents
• Slow to understand language
• Difficulty asking questions
• Difficulty finding words to express thoughts

5 years of age

• Speaks only in simple sentences
• Difficulty answering questions
• Difficulty with complex directions
• Difficulty telling stories
• Difficulty with peer interactions


• Difficulty with reading, writing, and math
• Produces sentences with grammar errors
• Limited vocabulary compared to peers
• Produces speech with sound errors
• Difficulty with social interactions


• Unusual voice quality
• Disfluency of speech, such as stuttering

Adaptation of:

Visser-Bochane, M. I., Gerrits, E., Schans, C. P., Reijneveld, S. A., & Luinge, M. R. (2016). A typical speech and language development: A consensus study on clinical signs in the Netherlands International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 52(1), 10-20. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12251