Help with talking and Private speech and language therapy in OxfordshireDevelopmental Norms

Criteria to assess if your child's speech and language skills are developing normally.

Please find below a list of criteria, categorised into age groups, which can help you to work out if your child is developing normally. Note that these are approximate indicators only, so try not to be worried if your child isn't able to perform some of the skills listed. After all, children develop at different speeds. If a developmental delay persists, however, then feel free to contact us for professional guidance.

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By the age of 12 months, your child should be able to:

  • Look at you when you speak to them and call their name.
  • Listen carefully, and turn to someone talking on the other side of the room.
  • Begin to understand words like "bye bye" and "up" especially when a gesture is used at the same time.
  • Understand their own name.
  • Understand the names of familiar objects i.e. "teddy" and "mummy".
  • Smile at people who are smiling at them.
  • Enjoy action songs and rhymes.
  • Like to babble strings of sounds, like "no-no" and "go-go".
  • Shake their head for "no".

Possible issues to look out for:

  • By 6 months never reacts to noise.
  • By 6 months doesn´t smile back at someone who smiles at them.
  • By 9 months doesn´t turn towards a speaker when their name is called.
  • By 1 year never tries to get your attention by pointing, making noise, reaching out or eye contact.

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By the age of 18 months, your child should be able to:

  • Look with interest at picture books.
  • Enjoy games like pat-a-cake.
  • Begin to understand a few simple words, such as "Where's your juice?", "bed" and "car". Also simple instructions like "bye bye daddy".
  • Say up to 10 - 20 simple words, such as "cup", "daddy" and "car". Only adults familiar with your child may understand the spoken words.
  • Copy sounds and words that adults say and gestures that they make.
  • Like to gesture or point, often with words or sounds to show what they want.
  • Start to enjoy simple pretend play i.e. pretending to pour a drink.

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Your child has not started to babble using lots of different sounds.
  • He is not saying his first words by 18 months.
  • Doesn´t respond to simple commands, i.e. "Where's your hat?".
  • Never concentrates on anything for more than a few seconds.

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By the age of 2 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Understand between 200 and 500 words.
  • Sit and listen to simple stories with pictures.
  • Concentrate on activities for longer, like playing with a favourite toy.
  • Understand simple questions and instructions, i.e. "where is your drink?" and "show me your eyes".
  • Start to put short sentences together with 2-3 words, such as "more biscuit please" or "bye mummy".
  • Say around 50 single words. Children will also often miss out the ends of words, however they can usually be understood about half of the time.
  • Enjoy pretend play with their toys, such as feeding their doll or driving a train to a station.
  • Use pronouns such my / you but with some mistakes.

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Doesn´t seem to understand the names of everyday familiar objects, i.e. "spoon", "cup", "teddy".
  • Has difficulty following simple instructions, i.e. "show me your hands".
  • Doesn´t concentrate on an object / activity of own choice.
  • Is not able to say recognisable words.
  • Doesn´t show any signs of pretend play.

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By the age of 3 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Enjoy, listen to and remember simple stories with pictures.
  • Understand simple "who", "what" and "where" questions.
  • Understand longer instructions, such as "open the box" or "where's mummy's coat?"
  • Put 4 or 5 words together to make short sentences.
  • Use up to 300 words.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • May still have problems saying more difficult sounds like sh, ch, th and r. However, people who know them can mostly understand them.
  • Use a wider range of speech sounds. However, many children will shorten longer words, such as saying "nana" instead of "banana" or "pider" instead of "spider".
  • Start to add on plurals, e.g. "cats".

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Chooses to point or show what they want rather than say it.
  • Doesn´t seem to understand what you said.
  • Says single words.
  • You cannot understand what they say.
  • Shows no interest in playing with others.
  • Attention span is very short.

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By the age of 4 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Listen to longer stories and answer questions about a storybook they have just read.
  • Understand and often use colour, number and time related words, i.e. "red" car, "three" fingers and "yesterday / tomorrow".
  • Answer questions about "why" something has happened.
  • Use longer sentences and link sentences together.
  • Describe events that have already happened, e.g. "we went park".
  • Enjoy make-believe play.
  • Start to like simple jokes.
  • Ask many questions using words like "what" "where" and "why".
  • Still make mistakes with tense such as say "runned" for "ran" and "swimmed" for "swam".
  • May have difficulties with a small number of sounds for example r, w, l, f, th, sh, ch.
  • Be understood by people who are not familiar with them.
  • Use social words such as "please" and "thank you".
  • Start to be able to plan games with others.

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Often looks puzzled as if they don´t understand what you said.
  • Speech is very unclear.
  • Can´t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes.
  • The language they use is jumbled and difficult to understand.
  • They are aware of their non-fluency / stammering.

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By the age of 5 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Understand spoken instructions without stopping what they are doing to look at the speaker.
  • Choose their own friends and play mates.
  • Take turns in much longer conversations.
  • Understand more complicated language such as "first", "last", "might", "maybe", "above" and "in between".
  • Understand words that describe sequences such as "first we are going to the shop, next we will play in the park".
  • Use sentences that are well formed. However, they may still have some difficulties with grammar. For example, saying "sheeps" instead of "sheep" or "goed" instead of "went".
  • Use most sounds effectively.

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Difficulty with abstract ideas such as size or time.
  • Not able to use the right words to express themselves.
  • Difficulty organising ideas and thoughts in the correct order.
  • Missing out some words. For example, saying "kicking ball" instead of "Daddy is playing with the ball".
  • Talking about lots of different topics in the same group of sentences.
  • Speech is still unclear.

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By the age of 7 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Use their language skills in learning to read, write and spell.
  • Learn that the same word can mean two things, such as "orange" the fruit and "orange" the colour.
  • Learn that different words can mean the same thing, such as "minus" and "take away".
  • Understand feelings and descriptive words like "carefully", "slowly" or "clever".
  • Use language for different purposes such as asking questions, persuading & different social situations.
  • Share and discuss more complex ideas.

Possible issues to look out for:

  • Find it hard to learn and understand the meanings of words.
  • Find it hard to understand language about things in the past or future.
  • Struggle to understand phrases that can mean more than one thing, such as "pull your socks up".
  • Respond to just part of an instruction, usually the beginning or end.
  • Use short sentences, often with words missing or in the wrong order.
  • Find it hard to make up stories.
  • Is not learning at school, but nobody can explain why.
  • Is struggling to make friends.

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By the age of 11 years old, your child should be able to:

  • Use language to predict and draw conclusions.
  • Use long and complex sentences.
  • Understand other points of view and show that they agree or disagree.
  • Keep a conversation going by giving reasons and explaining choices.
  • Start conversations with adults and children they don´t know.
  • Understand and use passive sentences e.g. "the thief is chased by the policeman".

Possible issues to look out for:

  • They may struggle to join in group conversations. This is because there is too much language.
  • They may find it hard to make up stories. This will show in their written work as well as talking.
  • Their stories may be muddled, making them difficult to follow.
  • They may find it hard to learn and understand the meanings of words.
  • They may struggle to understand language about things in the past or future.
  • They may find it hard to make predictions.
  • They may find it difficult to understand language where the meaning isn´t clearly stated.
  • They may be struggling to learn at school.
  • They could find it hard to understand what it is they are supposed to be doing, even though they have been told.

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