Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy? Everything You Need to Know to Make the Best Decision - Talk 2 Me Mama (2023)

If you are wondering, “Does my toddler need speech therapy?” then you have come to the right place! I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist and toddler mom. I would love to help you decide whether or not you need to get your child evaluated for speech-language pathology. Let’s jump in!

Contents hide

1 What is speech therapy?

2 When should I get speech therapy for my toddler?

(Video) Is Your Child Talking Late or Is it Autism?

3 What are common milestones for speech and language for babies and toddlers?

3.1 0-3 Months:

3.2 4-6 Months:

3.3 7-12 Months:

3.4 18 Months:

(Video) When to worry about speech delay in toddlers? - Dr. Satish Babu K

3.5 2 Years:

3.6 3 Years:

3.7 4 Years:

3.8 5 Years:

4 Does my toddler need speech therapy?

4.1 Your Toddler May Need a Speech and Language Evaluation If…

(Video) Baby Learning with Ms Rachel - Baby Songs, Speech, Sign Language for Babies - Baby Videos

5 How do I get an evaluation for speech therapy?

6 Where can I get speech therapy for my toddler?

Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy? Everything You Need to Know to Make the Best Decision - Talk 2 Me Mama (1)

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy is a broad field that actually assists a wide range of children and adults with various difficulties and delays. The national speech and language therapy association (which also covers audiologists) describes speech therapists this way:

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

A speech-language pathologist might work with toddlers in a number of ways. They may target speech sounds (if a child isn’t speaking clearly), language (if a child isn’t talking or isn’t talking enough for their age), autism spectrum disorder (to address social language and communication), other known disorders, and much more.

Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy? Everything You Need to Know to Make the Best Decision - Talk 2 Me Mama (2)

When should I get speech therapy for my toddler?

If your child is delayed in speech and language, or if they have a known disability, you should get your child therapy as soon as possible. Early intervention is key because children are laying the foundation of their physical, cognitive, and emotional health from the moment they are born. From conception into the first years of life, the brain is developing at an incredible rate. By age two, the brain is 80% of it’s adult weight and size.

Early intervention is effective because with the brain working so hard and developing so much, toddlers are ripe for learning. The earlier your child gets help, the better.

(Video) 4 speech therapy exercises to help babies start speaking.

If you feel like your child might be behind in any area of development, I highly suggest asking your doctor and/or getting a referral for further evaluation. The “wait and see” approach might seem tempting, but it’s always better to address it as soon as possible.

Does My Toddler Need Speech Therapy? Everything You Need to Know to Make the Best Decision - Talk 2 Me Mama (3)

What are common milestones for speech and language for babies and toddlers?

0-3 Months:

  • startles or reacts to loud sounds
  • begins to smile on purpose (“social smile”)
  • makes cooing sounds (“ooh” and “ahh”)
  • may recognize familiar voices
  • cries to get needs met

4-6 Months:

  • moves eyes in the direction of a loud sound
  • recognizes changes of tone in your voice
  • may begin to understand “no”
  • starts using more sounds like “pa”, “ba”, “me”
  • laughs and giggles

7-12 Months:

  • points at things and looks when you point
  • turns to person when they call baby’s name
  • says first words like “mama”, “dog”, “hi”
  • tries to imitate your speech
  • starts to understand simple commands

18 Months:

  • follows simple directions like, “give mommy the cup.”
  • uses several new words
  • can point to at least one body part when named
  • shakes head and says “no”
  • points to something they want

2 Years:

  • points to several objects/pictures when named
  • uses phrases with 2 or more words
  • knows the names of familiar people
  • asks questions like, “what’s that?”
  • listens to short stories and songs

3 Years:

  • can name a majority of familiar things
  • understands the idea of “his”, “hers”, and “mine”
  • follows 2-3 step directions
  • is understood by most people
  • holds a back and forth conversation using full sentences
  • uses pronouns (I, me, we, you) and plurals (cats, shoes, chairs)

4 Years:

  • tells stories to other people
  • knows first and last name
  • says or sings entire poems or songs (like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)
  • names letters and numbers
  • changes the way talk depending on the listener
  • hears and understands most of what is said at home and school

5 Years:

  • speaks very clearly (may have some speech sound errors like “r”, “s'” or “l”)
  • uses full sentences to tell a story
  • getting better at grammatical rules, like using future tense (“We will go to my friend’s party.”)
  • says name and address
  • shows a lot of interest in making friends and wanting to be like them

For more information on developmental milestones, check out these two resources: The CDC or the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.

If your child only seems to be a little behind these milestones and you are wanting to help out at home, check out my post here. This post contains all of my favorite tips and tricks for helping your toddler increase their language.

Does my toddler need speech therapy?

Okay so now that you know what is typical (from the above section), you might be asking “does my toddler need speech therapy?”.

Your Toddler May Need a Speech and Language Evaluation If…

  1. Your child does not babble (using different sounds like “b”, “g”, “m”). A child should be doing this before 9 months.
  2. Your child does not use simple gestures to communicate (like pointing, or waving).
  3. Your toddler does not interact with you by smiling or reacting to you at all. Your child should show some sort of response to you almost as soon as they are born.
  4. Your child is only using a few sounds or gestures to communicate. Your little one should be doing this by age one.
  5. Your child is 2 years of age or older and has less than 50 words.
  6. Your little one is 2 years of age or older and does not combine 2 or more words.
  7. Your little one should be able to understand simple directions before age 2.
  8. Your toddler is not interacting with and trying to talk to other children by age 3.
  9. You can understand them less than 75% of the time by age 3
  10. A stranger can understand less than 50% of what your child is saying by age 3.

If you want more information on signs that your child may need speech therapy, check out these resources from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association here and here

How do I get an evaluation for speech therapy?

Your first step for getting an evaluation for your little one is to talk with your doctor. A doctor will have the resources you need to take the next steps in getting a speech and language evaluation.

If you want to try another avenue, you can look up certified speech language pathologists on the national website right here. There also may be private practice clinics or early intervention programs in your area. It all depends on where you live!

Where can I get speech therapy for my toddler?

Speech and language therapy is provided through a few different avenues. Therapy can be provided through the school district or the state, in a hospital, or in a clinic or private practice.

Every state has an early intervention program that is specifically for children ages birth to three years old. You can find contact information for each state’s Early Intervention Program through the CDC right here. An early intervention program may or may not include a speech-language pathologist depending on your area. However, early intervention is a great place to start. (I’m partial because I still do some work for Nebraska’s Early Intervention team and I LOVE IT!)

Other options include getting an evaluation through your doctor or looking for private clinics or practices that offer speech therapy. Many colleges and universities have speech therapy as well. If you have a college near you, check to see if they offer speech therapy for children. It often comes at a discounted rate because your child will be paired with a college student getting their degree in speech therapy. All of these are great options and offer slightly different models.

Do you have any questions about getting your toddler speech-language pathology? I’d love to answer in the comments!

(Video) 5 Signs of SPEECH DELAY in Children - SPECIAL TIPS TO PARENTS / How to know child has speech delay


How do I know if my 2 yr old needs speech therapy? ›

by 2 years: says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can't use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs. by 2 years: can't follow simple directions. by 2 years: has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)

Will speech therapy help my 2 year old talk? ›

Speech therapy for toddlers can be a great way to help your children learn new words and improve communication skills. Toddlers who receive therapy often have better language skills and social interactions with peers.

How does a speech therapist work with a 2 year old? ›

Speech therapy with this age is not drill practice, but rather teaching speech and language concepts in a fun and meaningful way! Pictures and visual cues may be used to enhance a lesson (such as specific sounds), but will be embedded into play-based activities.

How can I help my 2 year old with speech therapy at home? ›

13 Most Effective Speech Therapy Activities For Toddlers
  1. Use simple sounds. ...
  2. Speak slowly so baby can understand. ...
  3. TV does NOT help to get children to talk. ...
  4. Play with your child. ...
  5. Tell your baby what you are doing. ...
  6. Read books. ...
  7. Introduce colors and shapes. ...
  8. Hand gestures.
Jul 1, 2020

How long does speech therapy take for a 2 year old? ›

A typical speech and language therapy session for a toddler only lasts around 45-60 minutes.

At what point does a child need speech therapy? ›

If your child cannot understand and pronounce many words at 3 years old, take them to a speech therapist.

Does speech therapy really help toddlers? ›

Speech therapy can improve a range of communication skills essential for babies and young children beyond just speech. These include: Nonverbal communication Speech therapy can help infants and toddlers with the most basic forms of communication.

What is considered advanced speech for a 2 year old? ›

Advanced Sentence Structures

A typical 2-year-old can construct sentences of two or three words, often without a verb. For example, a child might say, "There cat" for "There is a cat." Gifted children, however, will often be able to speak in fuller sentences at age 2.

Can a toddler have speech delay and not be autistic? ›

Not necessarily. While speech delays, language delays, and learning differences are often a hallmark of ASD, a speech delay by itself does not mean a child has autism. In fact, there are key differences between communication delays caused by autism and other types of speech-language disorders.

What age is too late for speech therapy? ›

While early intervention offers the best outcome when it comes to helping someone with a speech or language disorder, speech therapy can be highly effective and beneficial to adults as well. No age is too old for speech therapy, and it is never too late to start working towards meeting your communication goals.

What happens in first speech therapy for toddlers? ›

You and your child will be seen individually in a room set up for children to play. You will be asked about your child's communication skills and development. The Speech and Language Therapist will then observe your child during play and discuss these observations with you.

How often should a toddler have speech therapy? ›

It depends on the problem a kid is working on. Kids might see a speech therapist once a week or a few times a week. Treatment can take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. If you have speech problem, the best advice is to practice, practice, practice.

What activities help toddlers talk? ›

Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs. Play rhymes, stories and songs in the car. Copy your child's attempts at words to encourage two-way conversation. Also build on your child's words – for example, when your toddler says 'train', you can say, 'Yes, it's a big red train'.

How do speech therapists teach toddlers to talk? ›

Language intervention activities: The SLP will interact with a child by playing and talking, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development. The therapist may model correct vocabulary and grammar, and use repetition exercises to build language skills.

What activities help with speech delay? ›

Exercises for speech delays in toddlers
  • Read to them. One way to help your toddler with a speech delay is to read to them every day, as often as you can. ...
  • Speak with them. ...
  • Encourage singing. ...
  • Model self-talk. ...
  • Use drinking straws.
Feb 24, 2022

What causes speech delay in 2 year old? ›

Developmental Delay of Expressive or Receptive Language

Trouble with language processing is usually caused by one of four problems: delayed expressive or receptive language, autism spectrum disorder, hearing loss, and global developmental delay.

What is the success rate of speech therapy? ›

In one study, 70 percent of preschool kids with language issues who went through speech therapy showed improvement in language skills.

What are the disadvantages of speech therapy? ›

What are the Drawbacks of Speech Therapy? There are concerns of a practical nature which must be considered. Speech therapy is time-consuming for both the parent and child. It's not enough to have a therapy session; the lessons from the session must be carried out throughout the week, at home and in the community.

How well should a 2 year old speak? ›

Between the ages of 2 and 3, most children: Speak in two- and three-word phrases or sentences. Use at least 200 words and as many as 1,000 words. Ask questions that start with who, what, where or why, such as "Where is mommy?"

How long does speech therapy assessment take? ›

A: The evaluation may take up to two hours. Q: Will there be time to discuss the findings? If therapy is recommended, how long will my child need services? A: The speech/language pathologist (SLP) will discuss the initial evaluation findings with you at the end of the evaluation.

Can a child with speech delays catch up? ›

Some children with expressive language delay "catch up" during the preschool years ("late bloomers"), whereas others have persistent delay (see 'Natural history' below). Early evaluation can help to correctly identify late-talking children who will benefit from intervention and/or additional evaluation.

Is it really necessary to have speech therapy? ›

Speech therapy is beneficial for children and adults with communication disorders. It can also help people with hearing impairments or those who have difficulty swallowing. Your healthcare provider may recommend speech therapy to help with: Aphasia.

Does speech therapy always work? ›

Is it effective? Several studies show speech therapy is an effective method for helping children and adults develop their communication skills. One study of over 700 children with speech or language difficulties shows that speech therapy had a significant positive effect.

Should I be worried if my 2 year old isn't talking? ›

A 2 year old not talking is a reason to seek advice from a speech pathologist or a health professional. There is a lot of variation and reason for delayed toddler talking, however, if they are saying NO words at 2, it is a definite red flag for them being at risk of development and learning delays.

What are signs of an advanced 2 year old? ›

Some gifted characteristics
  • They are often unusually alert and sleep less than others of a similar age.
  • They can be highly curious and soak up new information.
  • They often have excellent memories, and need much less repetition than others.
Mar 27, 2017

Should a 2.5 year old speak clearly? ›

By 24 months (two years), 50 to 75% of speech should be intelligible to familiar people. By 36 months (three years), 75 to 100% of speech should be intelligible to familiar people. By four years of age, a child should usually be understood, including by people who are unfamiliar to them.

What age do toddlers fully talk? ›

Most kids say 1–2 words by 15 months and 3 or more words by 18 months. By 2 years old, most toddlers are saying even more words and can put together 2-word sentences.

Do autistic toddlers play with parents? ›

Autistic children enjoy play and learn through play, just as typically developing children do. Through playing with others, your child can learn and practise new social skills and abilities. These skills are important for your child's overall development.

Is my child autistic or just a late talker? ›

Most late talkers present similarly and are still able to communicate through gestures and body movements. They have better receptive language and play skills as compared to those with ASD. To be considered a true late talker, the only thing your child is going through is a delay in expressive language skills.

What is the critical age for speech? ›

The Critical Age Hypothesis states that children need to be intelligible or possess clear, understandable speech by 5½ years of age, or they are likely to have difficulty with decoding and spelling (Bishop and Adams, 1990).

Is 3 too late for speech therapy? ›

It is never too late to get speech therapy for a child! Speech-language pathologists are trained to work with clients of all ages. I would recommend that you seek out therapy as soon as concerns arise regarding your child's speech and/or language development.

Which age is critical for speech development? ›

The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills. These skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.

What happens at first speech therapy appointment? ›

The therapist will ask you about your concerns, how you think therapy can help your child and what you would like to achieve from therapy. It is a good idea to go in to the session with an idea of what support you would like and the next steps you would like your child to achieve in their development.

What activities encourage speech? ›

Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
  • Say sound like "ma," "da," and "ba." Try to get your baby to say them back to you.
  • Look at your baby when they make sounds. ...
  • Respond when your baby laughs or makes faces. ...
  • Teach your baby to do what you do, like clapping your hands and playing peek-a-boo.

Does TV help toddlers talk? ›

Studies report a link between TV and language development in young children. The more time kids spend watching television, the more slowly they learn to talk.

How do you talk to your toddler so they will listen? ›

3 ways to talk to your kids so they will actually listen, according to one parenting coach
  1. Say what you see. The first step in the “Language of Listening” is simple: Say what you see. ...
  2. Offer a can-do. ...
  3. Finish off with a strength.
Jun 27, 2022

How much should a 2.5 year old talk? ›

Toddlers who are 2.5 years old say between roughly 350-650 words. The hundreds of words that 30 month olds can say consist of many different types of words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Does reading help speech delay? ›

Bobby Coles wrote in his article on Helium, “Reading children's books is an important tool to help kids with speech delays. Rote reading helps a child to learn, over an amount of time, what words mean, and how they are properly spoken.” He also suggests constantly reading the same few books.

When should I worry about my 2 year old not talking? ›

If your child is over two years old, you should have your pediatrician evaluate them and refer them for speech therapy and a hearing exam if they can only imitate speech or actions but don't produce words or phrases by themselves, they say only certain words and only those words repeatedly, they cannot follow simple ...

What should a 2 year olds speech be like? ›

At around two years of age your child will probably have built up a core vocabulary of about one to two hundred words, and learned to join two words together. It is important to remember that children at this stage often do not pronounce words clearly, and that this is perfectly normal.

Is it normal for 2 year old not talking? ›

In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 15 percent of children between the ages of 18 and 24 months old are late talkers. There are several reasons why a 2-year-old is babbling but not talking. Sometimes, it may be because they are shy or introverted.

At what age do late talkers talk? ›

Speech/Language Milestones

Boys tend to develop language skills a little later than girls, but in general, kids may be labeled "late-talking children" if they speak less than 10 words by the age of 18 to 20 months, or fewer than 50 words by 21 to 30 months of age.

Can too much TV cause speech delay? ›

Studies report a link between TV and language development in young children. The more time kids spend watching television, the more slowly they learn to talk.

How much of a 2 year olds speech should you understand? ›

Speak about 50 to 100 words. Be understood at least half the time by adults who don't know the child.

What sounds do autistic toddlers make? ›

Autistic children have communication difficulties, narrow interests and repetitive behaviour.
For example, children might:
  • make repetitive noises like grunts, throat-clearing or squealing.
  • do repetitive movements like body-rocking or hand-flapping.
  • do things like flicking a light switch repeatedly.
Jul 23, 2021

What are the signs of autism in a 2 year old? ›

Autism in young children
  • not responding to their name.
  • avoiding eye contact.
  • not smiling when you smile at them.
  • getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound.
  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body.
  • not talking as much as other children.

Why doesn't my 2.5 year old speak? ›

Try reading to your toddler daily. You can also sing songs and talk out loud as you go about the day's tasks to get your little one hearing more words and sentences. If you still have concerns about your child not reaching speech or language milestones, consult your pediatrician.

What are the red flags for speech delay? ›

Red flags for a speech or language delay include: No babbling by 9 months. No first words by 15 months. No consistent words by 18 months.

Does Cocomelon cause speech delay? ›

The conversation around how beneficial the show actually is began when one mum voiced her concern on TikTok. Mum Sierra, whose two-year-old suffered from speech delay, claimed she didn't realise that the show was holding back her child's development until she switched over to another popular kids' program.

How can I help my 2.5 year old with speech delay? ›

Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. They may resolve on their own or with a little extra help from family. It's important to encourage your child to "talk" to you with gestures or sounds and for you to spend lots of time playing with, reading to, and talking with your infant or toddler.


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