A growing body of research and clinical insight has indicated that speech and language develops in a predictable trajectory. Having an understanding of what is typically expected across the lifespan allows parents to determine if their child requires specialist assessment and intervention, and provides health professionals with research-backed guidance on what to assess and treat.

Normal speech and language development

  • Responds to voice and sound
  • Coos (oo, ahh…)
  • Smiles
  • Different crying sounds to represent needs
  • Responds to ‘no’ and their name
  • Uses some appropriate gestures such as
 waving ‘bye bye’
  • Babbles (e.g. baa, muu, dee)
  • More complex babbles 
(e.g. ‘ma ma bee bee’)
  • Copies gestures and sounds
 (e.g. claps ‘woof woof’)
  • Starts to use nonsense words to label important things in their world
  • First words may emerge
  • Points and pulls towards items to get attention
  • Begins to use a variety of single words 
such as:
  • More, no, yes, ball, go, juice
  • Continues to talk using ‘nonsense’ words
  • Begins to put two words together in various combinations such as:
    • ‘Big drink’
    • ‘Drink milk’
    • ‘My drink’
  • By two years of age your child should consistently be using 50 words independently
  • Understands simple questions and instructions
  • A huge explosion of language occurs during this time. Vocabulary expands from around
 50 words at two years of age to 1200 words by three years
  • Short sentences will start to form and some grammatical features will begin to develop e.g. ‘ride bike’ may change to ‘riding bike’
  • Begins to understand simple two part instructions, most common words and routine based activities
  • From 3-4 years many more grammatical structures begin to appear in sentences
  • The meanings of most sentences are clear
  • Some common grammatical features are:
    • use of past tense (e.g. talked)
    • use of articles such as ‘a’ and ‘the’
(e.g. The ball is red)
    • use of pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’ (e.g. He is running)
  • This is the time where children will ask lots of questions and can answer ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions such as: “what does a fireman do?”
  • Following more complex instructions should not be too difficult  (e.g. “put your shoes under the bed and then grab your blue bag”)
  • By now speech and language should be resembling adult forms;
    • Sentences should be mostly grammatically correct
    • They can answer all wh- questions
    • They should have a large vocabulary to express various ideas, wants and needs
    • They can recount past experiences and hold a conversation

What if my child speaks more than one language?

It’s not a disadvantage to speak more than one language! There are normal differences that must be accounted for. If you are concerned, consult a speech therapist who can provide information about those normal differences and help determine the need for intervention.

Literacy development

  • Can rhyme and clap syllables
  • Can blend together words with 3 sounds
 (e.g. d-i-g → dig)
  • Can read and spell most single sounds 
(e.g. m, b, t, a)
  • Can read and spell ALL single sounds quickly (1 sound/second)
  • Starting to learn and recognise digraphs
 (e.g. th, sh, ee)
  • Can blend together words with 4 sounds
 (e.g. b-r-i-ck → brick)
  • Can segment words with 4 sounds 
(e.g. what are the sounds in ‘spot’?)
  • Can read simple text with fluency and attempt to write simple sentences 
(e.g. My black dog ate a frog)
  • Will attempt to write unknown words phonetically (e.g. cheese as ‘cheaz’)
  • Reading continues to increase in fluency and accuracy and they should be reading for pleasure outside of school 
(e.g. early chapter books)
  • They will making more accurate sound and letter choices for spelling
  • Writing a page of text in one go, is easily achieved