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Does my child need a speech language pathologist?

Children begin communicating at birth by smiling, crying, giggling and pointing. While these are wonderful non-verbal expressions of emotions and needs, as parents, we eagerly look forward to the time when our children will begin to talk. Some of the most common questions we receive from parents include “how many words should my child be saying?” and “should I seek help from a speech pathologist?” Although every child and situation is unique, here are some general guidelines:

By 18 months, children will likely be: 

  • using at least 10 words consistently;
  • able to follow one-step instructions;
  • responding to simple questions.

By age two, children will likely be:

  • using at least 50 words;
  • combining some of these words into two-word phrases (e.g., “mommy up”, “nice doggy”);
  • able to be understood at least 50 percent of the time by people who are not familiar with them (i.e. not their family or caregivers).

While situations such as chronic ear infections may cause language delays, these milestones provide an important timeline of language development. They also ensure your child is building a strong foundation for future speech, language and social skills. 

If your child does not meet these milestones, or if you are concerned about your child’s speech, language, or social development, contact a speech pathologist. Reassurance that your child is on track may go a long way to calm any anxieties about language development.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2013.

a man carrying two children

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