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All About My Child's Speech Development

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

GUEST POST BY FREEDA THONG - Speech Pathologist at Seed to Sprout

What is normal for communication development?

When should I see a speech pathologist?

What can I do at home?

These are some of the things that people often ask about speech pathology!

What is a speech pathologist?

Most people will think that a speech pathologist works only with children, and to only treat lisps. How boring that would be for those working as speech pathologists if that were the case! In fact, a speech pathologist’s scope of practice is much more varied than this. Speech Pathology is an allied health profession that diagnoses, treats and manages communication disorders and feeding difficulties through a client-centered approach for people across the lifespan. Speech Pathologists can support children and families with the following:

· Speech difficulties

· Language difficulties

· Literacy difficulties

· Social communication difficulties

· Stuttering and voice difficulties

· Swallowing and feeding difficulties

When should you take your child to see a speech pathologist?

As children learn and develop through interacting with everyone around them, it is important to ensure that we are all aware as parents, family members, educators and health professionals, of what the red flags are for their developmental milestones. Literature suggests that early intervention is the key to helping children reach their full potentials. Speech Pathology Australia have put together a communication milestones poster that can help you navigate through your child’s development. Here is a summary below:

12 months


 Understand about 10 words

 Make eye contact

 Respond to their name

 Recognize familiar people

 Start using sounds, gestures and try some words

 Continue to babble

 Copy different sounds and noises

 Start to sing

18 months



 Understand up to 50 words

 Follow single 1 step directions

 Point to familiar objects

 Name familiar objects

 Point to pictures in books

 Say up to 20 words

 Copy plenty words and noises

 Name body parts

 Use objects in pretend play

2 years



 Follow simple two part instructions

 Respond to ‘wh’ questions

 Point to several body parts and pictures in books when named

 Understand when an object is ‘in’ or on’ something

 Say more than 50 words

 Put two words together

 Use their tone of voice to ask a question

 Say ‘no’ meaningfully

 Say words with sounds /m, n, b, k, g, h, w, t, d/ in them

 Start to use ‘mine’ and ‘my’

3 years



 Follow more complex two part instructions

 Understand simple ‘wh’ questions

 Understand ‘same’ and ‘different’ concepts

 Understand categories

 Recognize basic colours

 Say four to five word sentences

 Use variety of words for names, actions, locations and descriptions

 Ask questions with ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘who’.

 Have a conversation

 Talk about something in the past, but may not use ‘-ed’ a lot

4 years



 Answer most questions about daily tasks

 Understand most ‘-wh’ questions

 Understand some numbers

 Show awareness that some words start of finish with same sounds

 Use words such as ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘because

 Describe events such as morning routines

 Use a lot of questions

 Use personal pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’

 Count to five and name a few colours

5 years



 Follow three part instructions

 Understand time related words

 Start thinking about the meaning of words

 Understand instructions without stopping to listen

 Being to recognize letters, sounds and numbers

 Use well formed sentences

 Take turns in conversation

 Tell simple, short stories with a start, middle and end

 Be understood by most people

For a more in depth version of the milestones, please visit Speech Pathology Australia for more helpful resources.

If you have any concerns for your child, and they are delayed in any of the above areas, referring your child to a speech pathologist can be an easy process. You can simply pick up the phone, send an email or make an enquiry through any local speech pathologist’s web portal, and book in for your first appointment.

Some strategies to continue your child’s communication

If your child is developing well and meeting all their milestones, this is really fantastic! You are doing a wonderful job. We know that sometimes it is hard to not compare between children, or even just to be concerned about your child’s communication. If you are querying whether they are hitting their milestones or not, you are not alone. If this is you and you are sitting on the fence, speech pathologists are always able to complete formal and informal assessments to let you know where your child’s speech and language development is at. Additionally, speech pathologists can provide strategies and tips to help you to facilitate their learning and give you some guidance if needing any extra referrals. To continue developing your child’s communication and learning skills, these are some easy ideas to inject into your daily routine:

1. Engage in play based activities with your children.

2. Limit screen time.

3. Get your children involved with chores and tasks around the house. If you are making dinner, have them get involved too and make sure you speak about what each ingredient is and all the actions of what you are doing whilst cooking.

4. Read to your child on a daily basis and talk about the pictures. You may like to include a song at the end of the book, or an activity to further increase enjoyment around books.

5. Sing nursery rhymes to your children when you can see opportunity. This may be a great way to make bathing, packing up and helping around the house fun.

6. Talk about games and activities that your child is engaged in. For example, if your child is playing with cars, talk about what he/she is doing with the car “You pushed the car!”

7. Model to your child the adult version of speech. When your child attempts to say a word that says it incorrectly, avoid asking questions or correcting, simply provide an adult model. For example, if your child says ‘tar’ for car, repeat back to your child, ‘car!’.

8. Expand words that your child is saying by one-two words. For example, if your child says ‘car’, you may like to add on one word ‘red car’.

9. A visual schedule of a routine may be beneficial. This is a really simple yet effective way of helping your child know what to expect next.

10. Have a search of any play groups that might exist in your area. This is a fantastic opportunity for your children to engage with other children, and to engage with your community.

We hope these are helpful tips, but most of all it is so important to have fun with your children! We will be listing out a list of fun games you can play at home during this COVID environment to keep your little ones entertained and still developing their communication skills - keep an eye out for this!

You can get in contact with Freeda at Seed to Sprout. And the good thing is, she is available online, so anyone, Australia wide can contact her today :)

Passionate about communication being humans greatest tool, Freeda started her journey within the field as an Applied Behavioural Therapist. Freeda is a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist, a member of Speech Pathology Australia and has experience working within the not-for-profit and private sector. She has a fond interest in the fields of literacy, early language, speech sound delays and sensory feeding. Freeda can’t wait to meet you and your family!

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