Say What? Is My Child’s Speech Progression on Track?

Written by Jakeen Johnson, M.D. on Jun 22, 2016, 9:30:00 AM

If there’s any commonality in children, it’s that they all progress at different paces. That can be frustrating to some parents, especially if their child can’t talk yet. While not every kiddo’s speech will progress at the same rate, there are some milestones to look for, some ways to help them learn and some things you can do if you’re becoming concerned. 

Know the Milestones


There are certain markers physicians look for when they’re dealing with speech and other cognitive progression. Here are some of the general ones. 

By the end of three months, your child will likely:

  •  Make cooing noises
  •  Recognize faces
  •  Cry differently for different needs
  •  Smile when they see you 

By six months of age, your baby can probably:

  •  Make noises to themselves if they’re playing alone
  •  Babble
  •  Respond to changes in the tone of your voice
  •  Listen to music
  •  Move their eyes in the direction of sound
  •  Notice that certain toys make sounds
  •  Express pleasure or displeasure with their voice 

By a year of age, speech is progressing right along and you may notice that your child:

  •  Can say simple words like “dada” or “mama”
  •  Will recognize words that you use frequently for items
  •  Understands simple directions from you
  •  Will turn and look in the direction of sounds 

By two years of age, your child can probably:

  •  Talk in simple phrases
  •  Follow simple directions
  •  Speak at least 50 words
  •  Ask short questions 

How to Help Them Along


You’ve likely heard the phrase, “children are like sponges” before, and that’s true. They soak up everything you say and do during this vital learning time. Because of this, take every opportunity to talk to them, read with them, ask them questions and engage them. As you’re cooking, explain what you’re doing in simple terms — say things like “I’m putting water in the pot.” As they get older, have them help you by asking them to do things, such as “Can you please bring me the pot?” Build on what you’ve been teaching them. By associating objects and actions with words, they’ll likely learn faster. 

When to See Your Doctor

If your child isn’t progressing to the speech milestones like you think they should, don’t panic. There could be many reasons for the delay. The best thing to do is call your doctor, who will probably schedule a hearing test to make sure your child can hear OK. Beyond that, diagnoses are largely a process of elimination. Whatever happens, sing with your child. Play with them, encourage counting, facilitate reading and remember that not all kids learn at the same pace. 

Was your child slow to talk or a real chatterbox?


Dr. Jakeen Johnson is a board-certified pediatrician who cares for her patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Kingwood Clinic. Her areas of clinical interests include childhood obesity, nutrition, asthma and allergies.



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