Topic Overview

A child’s failure to reach speech and language milestones as expected
may be a “red flag,” or warning, meaning a speech and language development
problem. If your child does not reach developmental milestones on schedule, it
does not necessarily mean there is a problem. But he or she should be
evaluated by a health professional.

Language delays include problems understanding what is heard or
read (receptive language delays) or problems putting words together to form
meaning (expressive language delays). Some children have both speech and
language delays.

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
  • No word combinations by 24 months.
  • Slowed or
    stagnant speech development.
  • Problems understanding your child’s
    speech at 24 months of age; strangers having problems understanding your
    child’s speech by 36 months of age.
  • Not showing an interest in

Also, talk to your health professional anytime you or another
caregiver has concerns about your child’s speech and language development or
other problem that affects your child’s speech or understanding of language,
such as:

  • Excessive drooling.
  • Problems
    sucking, chewing, or swallowing.
  • Problems with control and
    coordination of lips, tongue, and jaw.
  • Stuttering that
    causes a child embarrassment, frustration, or difficulty with
  • Poor memory skills by the time your child reaches
    kindergarten age (5 to 6 years). He or she may have difficulty learning colors,
    numbers, shapes, or the alphabet.

Other red flags include:

  • Failure to respond normally, such as not
    responding when spoken to. This may include signs that the child does not hear
    well, such as not reacting to loud noises.
  • A sudden loss of speech
    and language skills. Loss of abilities at any age should be addressed
  • Not speaking clearly or well by age 3.


Other Works Consulted

  • Andrews JS, Fieldman HM (2011). Language delay. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 331-334. New York: McGraw-Hill.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD – Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017