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When to be Concerned about
a Child's Speech or Language

Are you concerned about a child’s speech or language development? The following general information may guide your decision regarding whether speech or language screening is needed. Please remember that these are only general guidelines and cannot replace professional assessment by a speech-language pathologist. If in doubt it is best to request a speech and language screening. Remember that age-appropriate speech and language skills are critical to later academic success!
Click here to find an overview of speech and language services available in U.S. communities.

By 36 months a child should:
  • Be understandable 75% of the time when talking to family members
  • Use at least 200 intelligible words
  • Use -ing on the end of verbs (I’m jumping. Daddy’s running)
  • Use plural -s on the end of nouns (cats, toys, kids)
  • Speak in 3-word sentences
  • Ask "where" and "what" questions
  • Enjoy listening to a 5-minute story

By 48 months a child should:

  • Be understandable 75% of the time when talking to unfamiliar people
  • Pronounce ‘b’ ‘d’ ‘k’ ‘g’ ‘f’’ ‘y’ and vowels correctly in words
  • Use the word ‘is’ in sentences (mom is coming; it’s mine)
  • Use the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ correctly
  • Understand many prepositions (put it in front of the box; put it behind the chair)
  • Understand and use adjectives like "big" and "little"
  • Speak in 4- to 5-word sentences
  • Enjoy listening to a 10-minute story
  • Repeat information when a listener doesn’t understand

By 60 months a child should:

  • Be understandable to both familiar and unfamiliar people most of the time
  • Pronounce almost all sounds correctly
  • Use 1,500 to 2,000 different words
  • Understand and use prepositions in sentences (between, above, on top of)
  • Use the words ‘our’ and ‘they’ correctly in sentences
  • Use the words ‘this’ ‘that’ ‘there’ correctly in sentences
  • Speak in 4- to 7-word sentences and join sentences together using ‘and’
  • Ask questions using ‘why’ ‘when’ ‘how’
  • Tell simple stories

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Speech And Hearing Sciences