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How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?

By: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Every child is unique and has an individual rate of development. This chart represents, on average, the age by which most children will accomplish skills in hearing, understanding, and talking.

Children typically do not master all items in a category until they reach the upper age in each age range. Just because your child has not accomplished one skill within an age range does not mean your child has a disorder. However, if you have answered no to the majority of items in an age range, seek the advice of an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist.

 
Hearing and Understanding
Talking
Birth-3 Months
  • Startles to loud sounds.
  • Quiets or smiles when spoken to.
  • Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying.
  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound.
  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing).
  • Cries differently for different needs.
  • Smiles when sees you.
4-6 Months
  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds.
  • Responds to changes in tone of your voice.
  • Notices toys that make sounds.
  • Pays attention to music.
  • Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b, and m.
  • Chuckles and laughs.
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure.
  • Makes gurgling sounds when left alone and when playing with you.
7-12 Months
  • Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.
  • Turns and looks in direction of sounds.
  • Listens when spoken to.
  • Recognizes words for common items like "cup," "shoe," "juice," "book."
  • Begins to respond to requests ("Come here," "Want more?").
  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as "tata upup bibibibi."
  • Uses speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention.
  • Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up).
  • Imitates different speech sounds.
  • Has 1 or 2 words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although all sounds may not be clear.
1-2 Years
  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Follows single directions and understands simple questions ("Roll the ball," "Kiss the baby," "Where's your shoe?").
  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.
  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Says more words every month.
  • Uses some 1-2-word questions ("where kitty?" "go bye-bye?" "what's that?").
  • Puts 2 words together ("more cookie," "no juice," "mommy book").
  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words.
2-3 Years
  • Understands differences in meaning ("go-stop," "in-on," "big-little," "up-down").
  • Follows two requests ("Get the book and put it on the table").
  • Listens to and enjoys hearing stories for longer periods of time.
  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Uses 2-3-words to talk about and ask for things.
  • Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds.
  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time.
  • Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them.
3-4 Years
  • Hears you when you call from another room.
  • Hears television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • Answers simple "who?," "what?," "where?," "why?" questions.
  • Talks about activities at school or at friends' homes.
  • People outside family usually understand child's speech.
  • Uses a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words.
  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words.
4-5 Years
  • Pays attention to short stories and answers simple questions about them.
  • Understands words that involve sequencing (first, next, last) and time (yesterday, today, tomorrow).
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school.
  • Uses sentences that give lots of details ("The biggest peach is mine").
  • Tells stories that stick to topic.
  • Communicates easily with other children and adults.
  • Says most sounds correctly except a few like l, s, r, v, z, j, ch, sh, th.
  • Says rhyming words.
  • Names some letters and numbers.
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family.

Communication Tips

  • Talk naturally to your child and use a lot of different words. Talk about what your child is doing and what your child sees.
  • Take time to listen to your child. Respond to what is said so your child knows you have been listening.
  • Read to your child often and start early.
  • Accept some speech mistakes as your child develops. Don't ask your child to slow down or repeat.
  • Have your child's hearing tested if you find you have to repeat a lot or have to talk loudly to get your child's attention.
  • Seek professional help from an ASHA-certified audiologist or ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist if you're concerned about your child's communication development. Don't wait to get help for your child if you suspect a problem. You and your family members know more about your child than anyone else.
  • Early identification and treatment of hearing, speech, and language disorders can prevent problems with behavior, learning, reading, and social interactions.
  • If your child is being raised in a bilingual home, use vocabulary from both languages in everyday interactions.
  • Refer to Beyond Baby Talk by Apel and Masterson and Talking on the Go by Dougherty and Paul for more communication tips to stimulate good speech and language skills.

Where to get help

If you think your child may have a speech, language, or hearing problem, you can contact a certified professional:

  • Audiologist

    Audiologists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, identification, and non-medical treatment of individuals with hearing loss and balance disorders.

  • Speech-language pathologist

    Speech-language pathologists help people develop their communication abilities as well as treat speech, language, swallowing, and voice disorders. Their services include prevention, identification, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists who are certified by ASHA have completed their master's or doctoral degree and earned ASHA's Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists provide professional services in many different types of facilities such as:

  • public and private schools
  • hospitals
  • rehabilitation centers
  • nursing care facilities
  • community clinics
  • industry
  • colleges and universities
  • private practices
  • state and local health departments
  • state and federal government agencies
Reprinted with permission from How does your child hear and talk. Copyright 2009 by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

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