The short answer is whenever you feel your child is having difficulty communicating their wants and needs.  Here at Morgan Hill Speech we encourage you to start sooner rather than later, and not “wait and see”.  Did you know that a child’s brain develops to roughly 80% of its adult size by 3 years old?! Children accomplish so much during these early years, and are developing at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives.  Speech therapy during this time takes advantage of this natural period of rapid brain development.  However, it’s never too late to start!  Research shows that our brain can continue to learn new skills at any age.


As pediatric speech language pathologists, we use communication milestones as a guide to how your child is progressing.  Most standardized assessments use milestones to investigate a child’s development compared to their peers.  While these milestones are just a general guide and every child will develop differently, they are a great tool for guiding when to start speech therapy services and begin providing the extra support your child may need to develop their communication skills.


0 – 6 Months:

  • Makes different kinds of sounds to express feelings
  • Looks at people and favorite objects
  • Vocalizes different vowel sounds
  • Makes sounds back and forth with a caregiver

6 -12 Months:

  • Babbles long strings of sounds, like dadada, mamama, upup
  • Recognizes the names of some people and objects
  • Engages in social interactions, like playing peek a boo

12 -18 Months:

  • First words by 14 months of age
  • Points to make requests, to comment or get information
  • Identifies one of more body parts
  • Uses gestures like clapping or high fives

 18 – 24 Months:

  • Understand at least 50 different words
  • Puts 2 or more words together, e.g. more water, go outside
  • Follows 2 step directions like ‘get the spoon and put it on the table’

24 – 30 Months:

  • Understand many different words
  • Consistently uses 2-3 word phrases
  • At least 50% of speech is understood
  • Says their name when aske

30 – 36 Months:

  • Combines words into short sentences, e.g. I want juice, look at me,
  • Answers simple -wh questions
  • Starts to ask some questions
  • You can understand them most of the time

3 – 4 Years:

  • Tell you a story from a book or a movie
  • Understand and use location words like inside, on and under
  • Says the sounds at the beginning, middle and ends of words
  • May still struggle with sounds like l, j, r, sh, ch, s, z and th
  • By 4 most people understand what your child is saying
  • Pretend to read and write. Maybe write some letters

4 – 5 Years: 

  • Sentences are mostly grammatically correct
  • Uses words for time like yesterday and tomorrow
  • Follows simple directions and rules to play a game
  • Produces most sounds correctly
  • Speech is understandable in conversations with others
  • Recognizes and names 10 or more letters and can usually write name

These milestones are not meant to serve as a diagnostic or screening tool. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s communication skills, reach out to a qualified speech and language pathologist. 

Article by Kathryn Rizqallah, M.S. CCC-SLP– Speech-Language Pathologist & Clinical Director of Morgan Hill Speech