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Identifying Red Flags for Developmental Language Disorder

If your child shows these red flags, or you are concerned about other aspects of your child’s speech and language development, contact a speech-language pathologist.

1 year of age:

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

2 years of age:

  • Minimal attempts to communicate with gestures or words
  • No first words
  • Difficulty following simple directions
  • Inconsistent response to “no”

3 years of age:

  • Limited use of speech
  • Speech is not understandable to parents
  • Limited understanding of simple questions
  • Difficulty naming objects or pictures
  • Produces at most 2-word phrases
  • Frustration related to communication

4 years of age:

  • Produces at most 3-word phrases
  • Speech is mostly not understandable to parents
  • Limited turn-taking in conversations
  • Takes a long time to understand what is being said
  • Difficulty asking questions
  • Difficulty finding words to express thoughts

5 years of age:

  • Speaks only in simple sentences
  • If English speaking, leaves out the –ed marker (She play(-ed) last night)
  • Speech not understandable to teachers
  • Difficulty answering questions
  • Difficulty with complex directions
  • Difficulty telling stories
  • Difficulty with peer interactions

School age:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing, or math
  • Difficulty following complex directions
  • Does not produce complex sentences
  • Produces sentences with grammar errors
  • Difficulty repeating sentences
  • Limited vocabulary compared to peers
  • Produces speech with sound errors
  • Difficulty with social interactions

This a guide on childhood language development. All children grow and develop differently. If you have concerns about your child’s health or development, contact your child’s primary care provider.

Adaptation of:

Visser-Bochane, M. I., Gerrits, E., Schans, C. P., Reijneveld, S. A., & Luinge, M. R. (2016). Atypical 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