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Benchmarking Your Child’s Speech Development – Q&A with Jaime Kosinski, Speech & Language Pathologist

Jaime Kosinski, Speech & Language Pathologist is happy to feature a multi-part Q&A session on childhood speech development with a personal friend to the site, Jaime Kosinski, Speech & Language Pathologist.  The Q&A exchange was originally intended for a single posting, but the first question in the thread warranted a lengthy response and became an excellent resource on its own.  Here is the question and response:

Functional Father: When should a parent worry about their child’s speech and what are some signs that would warrant a speech and language evaluation?

Jaime Kosinski: First, we must understand that speech and language are two different things.  Speech is how words are formed and articulated.  Language is how we understand and express ourselves during communication.  Language can be verbal, non-verbal and written.

As parents, we also need to understand that although there are developmental milestones, all children develop at different rates.  Parents must try and refrain from comparing what their child is saying and doing from other children their age.  As a rule of thumb, the following guidelines may help parents to determine if your child has a speech and/or language delay and if an evaluation by an SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist) is warranted.

1-12 Months

  • Babies should be cooing and babbling.
  • By 9-10 months they should be stringing sounds together like Dada & Mama. (Sorry though parents; they don’t know what Mama and Dada means yet!  They are just playing with their voices!)
  • They should also be aware of sounds and familiar voices around them.  They should respond to those sounds via head turns, babble, smiling, and eye-contact.

*If your child is not doing these things by one year see your pediatrician because hearing loss could be a possible cause.

12-15 Months

  • “One Year = One Word & Following One-Step Directions”
  • Children should have at least one or more true words in addition to Mama and Dada which begin to take on real meaning.  These words are usually nouns such as ball, baby, doggie, juice.
  • They begin to initiate turn-taking routines, like sharing food and drink, or beeping each others noses.
  • They will start to follow 1-step directions. (“Get the ball.”  “Feed the baby.”)

15-18 Months

  • Children will begin to imitate others, like brushing teeth and combing hair.
  • They will point to desired objects and use words to protest such as “NO!”

18-24 Months

  • “Two Years = Two Words & Following Two-Step Directions”
  • Parents should be able to understand 50% of what a child says
  • A child will begin to vocalize and use words and actions during pretend play, such as crying like a baby, flying a toy airplane, and making farm animal noises.
  • By two years-old children should have about 20-50 words in their vocabulary and should be combining two words together (“Mommy Go”  “Daddy Run”).
  • They should follow 2-step directions (“Give me the cup and sit on the chair.”)

*If a child by this point is using gestures over vocalizations and not imitating  words and sounds then your child may have a speech and/or language delay.

24-36 Months

  • “Three Years = Three Words+”
  • Parents should be able to understand 75% of what a child says
  • Between two and three years-old a child’s language should explode and a parent should no longer be able to count all the words his/her child says!  Children should now be able to combine up to three word phrases and understand concepts such as colors and size.

Four Years-Old

  • Your child should be able to be understood by you and others.

About Jaime Kosinski, Speech & Language Pathologist

Jaime Kosinski received her BA in Communications from Wake Forest University and MS in Speech-Language Pathology from Columbia University (NYC).  She is a member of the American Speech and Language Association and has worked for the NYC Department of Education and New York State Early Intervention Program.  Currently, Ms. Kosinski is a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist in Chicago, IL.  In her spare time Jaime serves as President of the Gwen L. Kosinski Foundation to Benefit Brain Tumor Research and directs the MINDS OVER MATTER Sag Harbor 5k Run (

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