Speech and Language Disorders

Children can have trouble with speech, language, or both.

  • Having trouble understanding what others say is a receptive language disorder.
  • Having trouble sharing our thoughts, ideas, and feelings is an expressive language disorder.
  • It is possible to have both a receptive and an expressive language problem.
  • When children have trouble saying sounds, stutter when they speak, or have voice problems, they have a speech disorder.

Students with speech or language disorders may receive therapy from an SLP, or speech-language pathologist.

Signs of Language Problems

Birth–3 months Not smiling or playing with others
4–7 months Not babbling
7–12 months Making only a few sounds. Not using gestures, like waving or pointing.
7 months–2 years Not understanding what others say
12–18 months Saying only a few words
1½–2 years Not putting two words together
2 years Saying fewer than 50 words
2–3 years Having trouble playing and talking with other children
2½–3 years Having problems with early reading and writing. For example, your child may not like to draw or look at books.

Signs of Speech Problems

1–2 years Not saying p, b, m, h, and w the right way in words most of the time  
2–3 years Not saying k, g, f, t, d, and n the right way in words most of the time. Being hard to understand, even to people who know the child well.

It is normal for young children to say some sounds the wrong way. Some sounds do not develop until a child is 4, 5, or 6 years old.

Signs of Stuttering

Most of us pause or repeat a sound or word when we speak. When this happens a lot, the person may stutter. Young children may stutter for a little while. This is normal and will go away over time. Signs that stuttering might not stop include:

2½–3 years

Having a lot of trouble saying sounds or words

Repeating the first sounds of words, like “b-b-b-ball” for “ball”

Pausing a lot while talking

Stretching sounds out, like “fffffarm” for “farm”

You can read more information about speech and language disorders from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association here.