How to Determine when a Toddler needs Speech Therapy

Every parent looks forward to first words and first steps as important milestones in their toddler’s life. However, not all toddlers are the same as they develop at different paces. This means that what may seem normal for one parent may not be normal for another. Even toddlers in the same household may progress differently, but national averages give specific time-frames that parents can use as a guideline. These guidelines and other specific milestones in language and vocabulary is what many professionals use when they look at to determine when a toddler needs speech therapy.

Determining when a toddler needs speech therapy begins at home, but involves the input of everyone that they communicate with. Teachers, parents and other relatives are important ears when it comes to finding a missing link in a toddler’s vocabulary and language development. Parents should be concerned about potential speech problems if their infant (under 24 months) is not using gestures or imitating sounds, or if they prefer using gestures instead of vocalizing when  interacting with others. At this stage in particular, parents and immediate caregivers are important in determining their toddler’s level of communication.

Methods for determining when a toddler needs speech therapy differ as he grows old. Because older toddlers begin to use more words, this is a more common way to determine where they are in the language department. By age four, most toddlers should be understood by almost anyone that they speak to, even if it is their first meeting. If parents are still having more trouble than normal understanding their toddler, there is need for concern because they are around them all the time. Toddlers that are difficult to understand may need to be more closely evaluated to get proper help for their speech difficulties.

Each toddler is different no matter what milestone they are finally achieving. However, it is important for parents and primary caregivers to know the warning signs in case their toddler needs help. Determining when a toddler needs speech therapy may also differ in age, but the warning signs are pretty simple if you observe your toddler and know what you are looking for. Always ask your pediatrician if you need help.

Nobody knows a toddler better than parents, and seeing the warning signs of speech delays usually begins at home. Know what to look for and be willing to ask for help if speech problems do not seem to improve. Speech therapy can be beneficial for even the smallest delays and teachers and therapists can offer much guidance when you need it most.


Kids Health – Delayed Speech or Language Development

NIDCD – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – Speech and Language