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Child Language

Child Language Image 2 | Therapeutic Interventions

There are two areas we address when evaluating a child's language abilities: receptive and expressive.

Receptive language is the child's ability to understand what is communicated to him by others, either spoken or gesture. If a child is demonstrating difficulty understanding what is said, following directions, answering questions, etc. then there may be a receptive language disorder or delay. A speech-language evaluation would be necessary to determine whether or not the child needs therapy.

Expressive language is the child's ability to express himself or communicate with others. A few of the areas that are assessed when looking at expressive language are: using age appropriate vocabulary, putting words together into phrases/sentences, applying appropriate word endings and using appropriate pronouns. Obviously there are many more attributes that contribute to expressive language. These are just a few of the things a speech-language pathologist would evaluate.

Here is a small list of the typical developmental norms for receptive and expressive language skills.

Birth to 6 Months

  • Makes different cries to communicate different needs (e.g.. hungry vs. wet)
  • Responds to familiar voices or sounds by turning or looking and/or smiling
  • Coos with vowel-like sounds
  • Explores new sounds and may produce some consonants

7 to 12 Months

  • Shows an understanding of the meaning of words
  • Learns language of daily routines, such as "time to eat" or "time for bed"
  • Babbles with consonant and vowel combinations
  • Imitates sounds made by others

13 to 24 Months

  • Produces first words and meaningful sound combinations
  • Follows a variety of basic directions
  • Recognizes common objects and their uses
  • Uses at least 50 - 100 words by 24 months
  • Uses most vowels and some consonants [ p, m, h, n]

2 to 3 Years

  • Puts words together to expand their meaning
  • Uses sentences/phrases of 3 or 4 words by the age of 3
  • Has a vocabulary of 300 to 500 words by the age of 3

3 to 5 Years

  • Follows a series of 2 - 3 part directions
  • Uses approximately 600 to 1600 words, depending on the exposure to words
  • Talks about recent events and experiences
  • Uses sentences of increasing length and complexity

This is just a quick overview of how to follow your child's development. For more information, please visit:

ASHA Article: Language and Literacy Development

Speech and Language: Causes, Disabilities, and Suggestions

More on Child Language