Whilst each child acquires new skills and abilities at his or her own pace, typically developing children are expected to reach developmental milestones within certain time frames.

Communication milestones and skill development are set out in the tables below.

Please feel welcome to contact Sydney Inner West Speech Pathology if you are wondering whether your child would benefit from speech and language therapy.

The Development of Social Interaction & Play

AgeSocial interaction and play.
0-4 monthsFocuses on either a person or object at any one time. Initially signals needs, likes and dislikes instinctively using facial expression, movement and sound. Reflexive smile becomes a social smile from about 3 months.
4-8 monthsAnticipates what will happen next during familiar routines, e.g. smiles in anticipation of being tickled during 'round and round the garden.'
6-12 monthsCopies gesture before learning to use gesture spontaneously, e.g. waving, raising arms to request 'up.' Enjoys social and repetitive games such as peekaboo and patacake, and learns to initiate play with an adult. Holds out hand to request objects and passes objects to an adult.
7-12 monthsDistinguishes strangers from familiars and is reassured by being close to carer, (known as separation anxiety).
8-11 monthsSelf-pretend play, e.g. brushes own hair with a doll's hairbrush, 'talks' into a phone. Follows adult's direction of pointing. Begins to take turns e.g. rolling a ball back to an adult 1 or 2 times, taking conversational turns whilst babbling.
10-12 monthsUnderstands rather than merely explores cause and effect toys, e.g. can predict that pressing a button will cause a light to flash.
12-18 monthsParallel play (i.e. plays alongside other children rather than with them).
Is often affectionate. Repeats things to make adults laugh. Initiates songs and rhymes with actions. Begins to develop simple imaginative pretend play by imitating adults, e.g. cleans with a cloth, offers teddy a toy cup. At first this play is solitary, later becoming more social, e.g. engages an adult by passing an empty cup for pretend drinking.
16-18 monthsActs out simple routines, e.g. puts teddy to bed. Observes and copies how other children play.
18-24 monthsActs out routines with sequences of several steps, e.g. cuts pretend cake, puts cake on plate, lifts cake to teddy's mouth. Sequences develop in complexity, e.g. undresses doll, washes doll, then dresses doll. Increasingly sociable with peers. Enjoys miniature toys (e.g. small figurines). May experience self conscious emotions at times.
2-2.5 yearsDolls, teddies and cars become 'alive' during play with the increasing ability to consider another entity's perspective. E.g. offers teddy food but teddy isn't hungry so doesn't eat - child knows that teddy thinks independently from her. E.g. makes sure that an action figure is positioned so that it can see the TV. Object substitution using objects which don't look too dissimilar from what they represent, e.g. playing with a pan as a hat or a stick as a sword. May become resentful when parents pay attention to other children. Defends own possessions with little sense of sharing.
2-3 yearsAttention skills are single channelled; cannot simultaneously attend to visual and auditory stimuli from different sources.
3-4 yearsAttention is still single channelled, but now finds it easier to switch focus of attention to listen to an adult. Imaginative play with invisible objects, e.g. buys something with invisible money, and object substitution with objects which do not look similar to what they represent, e.g. playing with a box as a rocket. Begins to change style of interaction depending on situation. Enjoys playing and conversing with peers. Shows concern for others and attempts to comfort. Begins to understand sharing. Tells simple jokes.
4-5 yearsDual channelled attention; can attend to spoken instructions whilst continuing with an activity (necessary skill for school). Dramatic make believe play and role play; cooperates with peers to play in groups, re-creating stories and taking on the role of another person. Can approach others and ask to join in group games. Understands rule governed games. Chooses own friends. Usually concerned with getting things right. Understands others' intentions. Can demonstrate assertiveness by asking others to stop when they are being annoying. Experiences complex emotions such as pride, guilt and shame. Emerging ability to reflect upon own emotions.
6-8 years Understands how to be a 'good winner' and a 'good loser.' Learns to give and receive compliments. Begins to negotiate by including others in joint decisions and making suggestions rather than telling others what to do.


The Development of Language Comprehension

AgeUnderstanding of language.
3-8 monthsMay recognise the familiar sounds of frequently heard names. Understanding of words is contextual; non verbal cues such as gesture, objects and familiar routine support understanding of spoken words. E.g. child can follow the instruction give me the spoon during a meal time when the spoon is already in front of her, and when she can see the adult looking at the spoon whilst holding out a hand to receive it.
8-13 monthsAssociates actions with songs. Begins to understand that pictures are representative. Gradually develops an understanding of spoken words for familiar objects without requiring contextual or non-verbal cues, e.g. bottle, ball, sock. Enjoys listening to the names of new words.
14-17 months Understands approx. 100 words without requiring contextual cues. Understood words generally include household items, body parts, simple actions such as byebye, give, kiss, sit down, bye-bye. Understands requests to fetch single familiar objects which are out of sight (in another room).
17 monthsCan fetch single familiar objects from other rooms (out of sight) when asked, e.g. get a book.
18-22 monthsRequires contextual cues to understand 2 part spoken instructions, e.g. get Daddy's shoes (cue may be an adult looking at the shoes), put teddy to sleep (cue may be that child is already holding teddy).
2-2.5 yearsUnderstands 2 part spoken instructions without contextual cues, e.g. get Daddy's shoes when neither Daddy nor his shoes are in sight. Understands prepositions in, on. Aware of categories, e.g. food, clothes, transport.
2.5-3 yearsUnderstands 3 part spoken instructions without contextual cues. Understands concepts such as big, little, today, yesterday, tomorrow, soon, later. Begins to understand concepts same and different.
3-4 years Understands prepositions next to, behind, in front, between. Identifies some colours and shapes, quantities a lot, empty, question words how, why.
4-5 yearsEnjoys simple jokes. Understands quantities 1 2 3 4 5, adjectives such as soft, hard, smooth, rough, big, bigger, biggest sequencing concepts first, then, middle, last, after, before and yesterday, today, tomorrow. Understands the concept of opposites. Listens to a short story and answers simple questions about it. Begins to understand that different people may want and think different things, and therefore act differently from each other.
5+ yearsUnderstands non-literal language such as sarcasm and figurative expressions, e.g. pull yourself together.


The Development of Expressive Language

AgeExpressive language.
0-3 monthsAutomatically signals likes, dislikes and wants by vocalising vowel sounds, grunting, crying and smiling, or by becoming still.
4-8 monthsSqueals, blows raspberries, yells and laughs out loud (more than a chuckle) to express emotions. Uses facial expression, body language and sounds to show anticipation of what's coming next during familiar games, e.g. smiles in anticipation of being tickled during 'round and round the garden.' Monosyllabic babbling to self (i.e. consonant + vowel syllables), ma, pa, ba.
6-9 monthsCanonical babbling to an adult (i.e. repeated consonant + vowel syllables), mamama, dadada, papapa.
8-10 monthsUses a range of signals (e.g. hand gestures, whole body movements, eye contact, sounds), to communicate purposeful non-verbal messages such as I want it, I like that, stop it. Variegated babbling which sounds like nonsense talking with rising and falling intonation (i.e. different consonant + vowel syllables) potaki, tamami, badigu. Gestures, e.g. waving bye bye.
10-15 monthsFirst words. (Articulation is inaccurate). First true words are not merely repetitions of what has been heard, they are spoken spontaneously and used consistently. One word is used for numerous purposes, e.g. buk for book may be said to label when a book is seen, to request it when it is out of reach, to request that it is read once the child has it, or to state ownership when someone else attempts to take it.
15-18 monthsSpoken vocabulary of 24+ true words. 3-4 new spoken words are learnt each month. Listens to and repeats words before they are learnt and added to spoken vocabulary.
16-24 months Speaks in 2 word phrases. (Children usually start putting two words together once their vocabulary includes 50+ words). E.g. more milk, hello duck, open door.
18-24 monthsSpoken vocabulary undergoes a growth spurt. E.g. up to 35 new words are learnt each month. Vocabulary includes negatives and verbs.
2-3 yearsGradually puts more words together and short phrases become longer spoken sentences.
2-2.5 yearsVocabulary includes question words, where, what. Vocabulary includes early grammatical features, e.g. regular plural -s in biscuits, and possessive -'s in girl's. Pronouns I, it, my, me, mine, you may not yet always be used accurately.
2.5-3 yearsSmall grammatical words and word endings may still be omitted. E.g. James kick ball instead of James is kicking the ball and Sammy walking instead of Sammy is walking. Some verb endings are spoken correctly. E.g -ing in throwing, going, singing. Regular past tense verbs are not always used accurately. E.g. played, walked, runned. Vocabulary includes simple prepositions in, on, under. Vocabulary also includes some adverbs such as here, there. May ask why? without always fully understanding what why means.
2.5-3.5 yearsPronounshe, she, we, your, yours, they, its, hers, his, them, her are used with increasing accuracy. Future tenses will, gonna are used accurately. Auxiliary and copular verbs are used, e.g. he is, they are, and he's and they're. Connecting words and, then, later, because, but, if are spoken within longer, compound sentences.
3.5-4.5 yearsIrregular past verbs and irregular plurals are used with increasing accuracy, e.g. drank, brought, took, mice. Time related words such as after, later, while, tomorrow, yesterday are spoken. Pronouns its, our, him, myself, yourself, ours, their, theirs are used with increasing accuracy. Increasingly complex prepositions are used, e.g. behind, in front, beside, between. Increasingly complex negatives are used, e.g. doesn't, isn't, no-one. Tells stories mixing real and fictional events.
4.5-5 years8+ word sentences and long stories are told accurately. Abstract verbs, e.g. think, wonder, wish, remember, pretend and comparative words, e.g. bigger, biggest are used accurately. Very few grammatical errors are made, e.g. irregular plurals are still being learnt.
5+ yearsChildren can now talk about what causes things to happen, predict future events, describe possible solutions to problems and negotiate. Expressive language skill development is much more variable between children from this age onwards.


The Development of Speech Sounds

AgeSpeech sounds.
2 - 3 yearsChildren can say p b m n t d h w zh ng sounds in words.
Some words are hard to understand, e.g. tar for car or tun for sun.
The ends of words may be omitted, e.g. do for dog or ta for tap.
3 - 4 yearsChildren can say k g f y sounds in words.
Some words are still unclear, e.g. doo for shoe or tain for train.
4 - 5 yearsChildren can say sh ch j s z l sounds in words.
Speech still sounds immature, e.g. wabbit for rabbit or fwog for frog.
Children start to use two consonant sounds together, e.g. cl in clown or st in star.
6 yearsChildren can say v and r sounds in words.
8 yearsChildren can say th sounds in words.


Stuttering / Stammering / Dysfluency

General information about stuttering.
Stuttering is when the fluency of speech is involuntarily interrupted. It can take different forms; repetitions of sounds, syllables, whole words or phrases (e.g. c-c-c-can I have… or bay-bay-bay-baby... or my-my-my-my name is ... or I want-I want-I want-I want that one ), sounds within words (e.g. Mmmmmmmummy ), periods of silence known as blocks when the word seems stuck, or an over use of unnecessary words (e.g. ummmm, you know ). Sometimes involuntary behaviours such as facial grimacing, blinking and foot stamping are also experienced.
Many pre-school children develop a stutter before 6 years of age. The majority of these children do recover naturally, without any speech & language therapy. However, it can be very difficult to predict which children are likely to recover without support. For those who do not, when treatment is delayed beyond a year, it is likely to take longer and / or be less effective.
Families are encouraged to contact Sydney Inner West Speech Pathology as soon as they notice that their child is stuttering to discuss whether or not treatment is recommended at this time.
For the majority of pre-schoolers, the Lidcombe Program is the recommended evidence based treatment intervention. It is usually advised that the Lidcombe Program commence six months after the onset of stuttering and at least one year before the child starts school, with the aim of successfully treating the stutter before the child starts school. Certain circumstances, such as a child who is anxious about their stutter, may warrant earlier intervention. Many treated children grow up not having remembered that they ever stuttered.
Other effective treatment options, such as Syllable Timed Speech and The Camperdown Program are available for school aged children.



Sydney Inner West Speech Pathology
Email: naomi@sydneyinnerwestspeechpathology.com
Phone: 0415794510

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