Worried Your Child Has a Speech Delay? 3 Things You Should Know

speech delay Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Guest post by Beth Rush

First and foremost, it is completely normal for you to ask questions and worry about your child. Regardless of the circumstances, you are not alone.

Second, you must remember that everyone learns and grows at their own pace. Asking yourself questions like, “Did I cause my child’s speech delay?” is unhealthy and unfair.

There are timelines for when children typically learn particular things. That doesn’t necessarily mean your child is behind if they aren’t mastering a task by the time they reach a specific age.

Effective communication is occasionally challenging for us as adults. It is painful to see your child struggle, but there are many ways to help them.

Can a child with speech delays catch up? Yes, they most certainly can. Here’s some insight to ease your mind and point you in the right direction.

Speech Delays

If you’re concerned that your child might be dealing with a speech delay, there are options available to lend your child a helping hand. Pediatric speech delay is the most common communication disorder, with as many as one in five children experiencing speech delays.

Receptive and Expressive Language

The lags in efficient communication are either receptive or expressive. Receptive language refers to the ability to process words they hear or receive. When someone talks to them, they can’t understand or comprehend what they’re trying to say. They also struggle with being able to organize their thoughts.

Expressive language means putting thoughts into words. They know what they want to say. They just don’t know how to say it. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? They might just need a little nudge forward to learn how to express their language through expression.

Red Flags

speech delay

Here are a few things you can look for as your child grows and learns. These are based on standard guidelines in reference to age range.

6 Months

By 6 months old, your child should be experimenting with sounds. Most children at 6 months old are squealing, growling, laughing, and developing their own tone of voice.

They typically react to sounds from toys and games as well as people. If your child isn’t laughing at all by this age or responding to any sort of sound, it might be time to talk to someone about it.

1 Year

By the time your child reaches 1 year old, their speech should be rapidly growing and changing. They should be trying to emulate words and know how to use gestures to communicate what they want. They usually have said a simple word or two by this age.

Common signs of delay at the 1-year mark are not responding to their name, no change in their tone, and not communicating when they need assistance with some gesture.

18 Months

By this age, you’ve almost got a toddler on your hands. Kids at 18 months are beginning to build their vocabulary and put words together. They have a basic understanding of commands and what certain words mean.

If your child struggles to mimick sounds and isn’t comprehending requests, they might be having difficulty with their speech.

3 Years

Jump ahead to 3 years old and you’ve got a full-blown toddler who made it through their “terrible twos.” By this time, most kids are well on their way to developing their speech. 3-year-olds can usually identify objects, understand verbal commands, and communicate with a few words or phrases.

A red flag for a speech delay in a 3-year-old includes not fully being able to articulate speech or gestures. If your child cannot verbally express to you their wants or needs, or follow directions, they may have a delay in their language development.

How to Help

speech delay

Go to doctor checkups regularly with your child. Don’t skip appointments. Your doctor can offer so much insight and various ways to guide your child down the appropriate path gently. If you have the slightest concern about your child, it is better to be safe than sorry. Getting your child evaluated is crucial in fighting the root cause.

There are tests that the doctors can run to ensure no other factors are causing the speech delay. One of those tests could be to check their hearing. Hearing loss is a more severe disorder that would need further evaluation.

Some therapies provide nurturance for your little ones through applied behavior analysis (ABA). Speech therapy is another available option. Occupational and physical therapies are helpful in teaching and overcoming obstacles as well.

Any behavioral development that seems out of the ordinary for your child should be discussed with their doctor.

Late Bloomers

A pediatric delay in speech could be an isolated event or something worth looking into to help your kid. The ability to communicate effectively is a critical element of self-esteem, and self-esteem is vital for a good quality of life.

When there are no other symptoms besides a minor lack of communication skills, you may just have a late bloomer on your hands. They just require a little extra time and guidance to blossom fully.

Interesting questions about speech delay

speech delay

How do I know if my baby has a speech delay?

By 18 months

  1. Trouble mimicking sounds
  2. Doesn’t follow simple requests
  3. Prefers gesture to vocalization
  4. Isn’t using at least 20 words
  5. Doesn’t respond to simple questions
  6. Doesn’t point to objects
  7. Isn’t able to point to major body parts

Should I worry about my two-year-old not talking?

Normally by age two, your baby should be using over a hundred words. However, a study released by the Journal of Pediatrics in August 2011 found that a lack of forming words at age two has no bearing on future development.

According to CDC’s new developmental milestones, a two-year-old should be able to:

  • Points to things in a book when you ask.
  • Says at least two words together.
  • Points to at least two body parts when you ask him to show you.
  • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes.

Is speech delay parents’ fault?

However, neglect or abuse can interrupt a child’s speech and language development, research suggests that speech problems are wrongly being blamed on parents. Not talking enough to your child or too much television are not the cause of your child’s speech delay.

Do speech delay run in the family?

Speech and language problems can run in the family. A recent study revealed that reading and writing difficulties in the family gave a greater risk of speech delay.

The same study suggests that gender also plays a role, boys are at greater risk of speech delay.

Will a child with speech delay catch up?

However, your child can catch up naturally if he is a late bloomer, you should seek an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist because research suggests that there is a probability of 20-30% that your child will continue struggling with speech delay without support.

What is the treatment for speech delay?

Currently language disorders are treated with speech and language therapy. Speech disorders, language disorders and communication disorders are treated by a speech-language pathologist, commonly called a speech therapist.

What are the most common types of language and speech disorders?

  • Apraxia of speech
  • Stuttering
  • Selective mutism
  • Articulation-related disorders
  • Autism-related disorders
  • Receptive disorders
  • Resonance disorders


Leung, A. K., Kao, C. P. (1999). Evaluation and management of the child with speech delay. American family physician, 59, 11, 3121.

Shriberg, L. D., Tomblin, J. B., McSweeny, J. L. (1999). Prevalence of speech delay in 6-year-old children and comorbidity with language impairment. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research, 42, 6, 1461-1481.

McLaughlin, M. R. (2011). Speech and language delay in children. American family physician, 83, 10, 1183-1188.

Dodd, B. (2011). Differentiating speech delay from disorder: does it matter?. Topics in Language Disorders, 31, 2, 96-111.

Iuzzini-Seigel, J., Hogan, T. P., Green, J. R. (2017). Speech inconsistency in children with childhood apraxia of speech, language impairment, and speech delay: Depends on the stimuli. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 5, 1194-1210.

Sunderajan, T., Kanhere, S. V. (2019). Speech and language delay in children: Prevalence and risk factors. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 8, 5, 1642.

Jullien, S. (2021). Screening for language and speech delay in children under five years. BMC pediatrics, 21, 1, 1-7.

Journal of Pediatrics: Late Talking and the Risk for Psychosocial Problems During Childhood and Adolescence

CDC Important Milestones: Your Child By Two Years

BBC Parents ‘wrongly blamed for speech problems’

Science Daily: Gender, genes play important role in delayed language development

Perspectives on Language Learning and Education: Language Outcomes of Late Talking Toddlers at Preschool and Beyond

When Your Child’s Speech Delay Is a Red Flag

Does My Toddler Have a Speech Delay?

Causes of Speech Delays in Children

Warning signs of Language Delay

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