How do I know if my child's speech-language development is "on track?"
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), I get this question all the time. As a mom of two young girls, I have even asked this same question of myself. You are not alone! Quick internet searches may give you information, but how do you sort through it all? When the information conflicts with itself, how do you know which information is correct? We have all been there, regardless of the topic being researched. But this can be especially challenging when it comes to your child's speech and language development.
First, know that each child develops and grows at their own rate. So, there is likely going to be some variability between what your child's speech and language skills sound like, and that of your child's best friend who is the exact same age. This is what is called a developmental range of expectations that you might read or hear about. This means that a child who is 10 months of age might attach meaning to a verbal word and use that word to communicate something to his or her parents (their first word). But another child may not say his or her first word until 14 months of age. This is a six month range, that many SLP's may consider a normal range. For parents, it may feel like their child's speech and language development is falling behind their peers already. This can cause a lot of stress for families who want to ensure that their child is "on track" developmentally. Just remember, that there is always a range of expectations for speech and language skills, and that all children are uniquely wonderful!
Secondly, the field of Speech-Language Pathology is scientifically and research-based. This is great news for all of us! The research provides guidelines for what that average range of developmental milestones and expectations should look and sound like for children of a given age. So, while there is a range, there are very specific speech and language skills that are expected for development within that given range. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing organization for Speech-Language Pathologists. It houses a wealth of knowledge and information, including research articles and guidelines for speech and language development. (Stay tuned for more information on specific speech-language development norms based on age provided by ASHA in my future posts.)
Lastly, if you are concerned about your child's speech and language development, reach out to your pediatrician for a referral to a local Speech-Language Pathologist. A Speech-Language Pathologist will be able to answer your questions and provide you with some general speech-language developmental expectations for your child's age. The SLP can also conduct an evaluation to determine your child's need for speech therapy services, and/or provide recommendations for how you can best support your child's speech and language development at home.