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Stages of Speech and Language Development 

For more information contact:

The Speech & Language Therapists

Mary Fisher 0161 342 5415
Fran Thomas 0161 342 5413
Lesley Anne Wallace 0161 342 5429

Stages of Speech and Language Development

Up to 3 months

Listening & Attention

  • Startled by loud noises
  • Turns towards a familiar sound

Understanding

  • Recognises parent’s voice
  • Often calmed by familiar friendly voice, e.g. parent’s

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Frequently cries especially when uncomfortable - Makes vocal sounds, e.g. cooing, gurgling

Social Skills 

  • Gazes at faces and copies facial movement, e.g. sticking out tongue!
  • Makes eye contact for fairly long periods

3 - 6 months

Listening & Attention

  • Watches face when someone talks 

Understanding

  • Shows excitement at sound of approaching voices


Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Makes vocal noises to get attention 
  • Makes sounds back when talked to
  • Laughs during play
  • Babbles to self

Social Skills

  • Senses different emotions in parent’s voice and may respond differently, e.g. smile, quieten, laugh
  • Cries in different ways to express different needs

6 - 12 months

Listening & Attention

  • Locates sources of voice with accuracy 
  • Focuses on different sounds, e.g. doorbell, clock

Understanding

  • Understands frequently used words such as ’all gone’, ’no’
  • Stops and looks when hears own name
  • Understands simple instructions when supported by gestures and context

Speech Sounds & Talk 

  • Uses speech sounds (babbling) to communicate with adults; says sounds like ’ba-ba, no-no, go-go
  • Stops babbling when hears familiar adult voice
  • Uses gestures such as waving and pointing to help communicate

Social Skills

  • Enjoys action rhymes and songs
  • Tries to copy adult speech and lip movements
  • Takes ‘ turns’ in conversation (using babble).

12 - 15 months

Listening & Attention

  • Attends to music and singing 
  • Enjoys sound - making toys / objects

Understanding

  • Understands single words in context, e.g. cup, milk, daddy
  • Understands more words than they can say
  • Understands simple instructions, e.g. ‘kiss mummy’, ‘stop’

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Says around 10 single words, although these may not be clear
  • Reaches or points to something they want whilst making speech sounds

Social Skills

  • Likes being with familiar adults
  • Likes watching adults for short periods of time.

15 - 18 months

Listening & Attention 

  • Listens and responds to simple information / instructions e.g. ’Ben, put on shoes’, ’Mohammed, give to daddy’ 

 Understanding

  • Understands a wide range of single words and some two-word phrases, e.g. ‘give me’, ‘shoe on’
  • Recognises and points to objects/pictures in books if asked
  • Gives names familiar objects to adults, e.g. coat, apple,

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Still babbles but uses at least 20 single words correctly, although may not be clear
  • Copies gestures and words from adults
  • Constant babbling and single words used during play
  • Uses intonation, pitch and changing volume when ‘talking’

Social Skills

  • Simple pretend play, but plays alone
  • Although becoming independent likes to be near familiar adult

18 - 2 years

Listening & Attention

  • Focuses on an activity of their own choice but finds it  difficult to be directed by an adult
  • Use of child’s name beginning to help them to attend to what an adult says, e.g. ‘Sarah, eat sandwiches’

Understanding

  • Understanding of single words develops rapidly during this stage: anything between 200—500 words are known
  • Understands more simple instructions, ’Get your bricks’

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Uses up to 50 words 
  • Begins to put two or three words together
  • Frequently asks questions, e.g. the names of people / objects
  • Uses speech sounds p,b,m,w

Social Skills

  • ‘Pretend’ play developing with toys, e.g. feeding a doll
  • Becomes frustrated when unable to make self understood
  • Follows adult body language e.g. pointing, gesture

2 - 3 years

Listening & Attention

  • Beginning to listen to talk with interest, but easily distract. 
  • Listens to talk addressed to him/her, but finds it difficult if prompts are not provided, e.g. use of name, stop and listen

Understanding

  • Developing understanding of simple concepts including In / on / under , big / little
  • Understands phrases like ’put teddy in the box’
  • Understands simple ’who’ and ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions but not why.
  • Understands simple story when supported with pictures

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Uses 300 words including descriptive language
  • Links four to five words together
  • Uses pronouns (me, him, she) plurals & prepositions (in, on, under)
  • Has problems with speech sounds: l / r / w / y , f / th, s / sh / ch / dz / j

Social Skills

  • Holds a conversation but jumps from topic to topic
  • Interested on other’s play and will join in
  • Expresses emotions towards adults and peers using words, not just actions

3- 4 years

Listening & Attention

  • Enjoys listening to stories 
  • Still finds it difficult to attend to more than one thing at a time, has to switch attention between speaker and task

Understanding

  • Understands questions or instructions with two parts, e.g. ‘get your jumper’ and ‘stand by the door’
  • Understands ‘why’ questions
  • Aware of time in relation to past, present and future, e.g. Today is sunny and yesterday was rainy.

Speech Sounds & Talk

  • Uses sentences of four to six words 
  • Uses future and past tense (ed)
  • May continue to have problems with irregular words, ‘runned’ for ‘ran, ‘swimmed’ for ‘swam’
  • Able to recall and enjoys telling long stories /singing songs
  • Has problems saying r, j, ch and sh

Social Skills

  • Understands turn-taking and sharing with adults / peers

4 - 5 years

Listening & Attention

  • Attention is now more flexible -the child can understand  spoken instructions related to a task without stopping the activity to look at the speaker

Understanding

  • Able to follow simple story without pictures
  • Understands instructions containing sequencing words; ‘first...after….last’
  • Understand adjectives: soft, hard, smooth, etc
  • Aware of more complex humour, laughs at jokes

Speech Sounds

  • Uses well formed sentences e.g. ‘I played with Ben at lunch & Talk time’ but there may still be some grammatical errors
  • Easily understood with only a few immaturities in sounds, e.g. ‘th’, ‘r’ & 3 consonant
  • Frequently asks the meaning of unfamiliar words

Social Skills

  • Chooses own friends and generally co-operative with peers
  • Able to plan construction and make believe play activities
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