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Early Language Delays


Early language delays are the most common developmental delay seen in toddlers. In fact, one out of 5 children will learn to talk or use words later than other children their age. While it is true that every child is different and children develop at different rates, there are certain developmental milestones that young children are expected to move through as they develop speech and language skills.


We break language milestones into two categories, Receptive language and Expressive language. Receptive language refers to understanding and processing language (i.e., following directions). Expressive language refers to communicating both verbally (i.e., talking) and nonverbally (i.e., gestures, signs, etc.). A child may have a delay in receptive language, expressive language, or both receptive and expressive language. For example, you might feel like your child is "understanding everything," but is only using a handful of words and is not able to communicate his wants and needs. 


As a parent, it is important to be familiar with these early language milestones so you know that your child is on track with his or her language development. If your child is not meeting the expected milestones for his or her age or you think there could be a problem with your child's development, it is important to talk with your child's pediatrician and share your concerns. Don't wait! Remember, there is no penalty for being cautious about your growing child, and if there is a problem acting early can make all the difference!

Early Language Milestones:

Receptive Language 12 - 24 Months 

  • Understands "come here" and "sit down"

  • Identifies several body parts 

  • Follows one-step commands during play

  • Understands some early prepositions (i.e., in, out, on, off)

  • Finds familiar objects not in sight

  • Chooses familiar objects from a group of objects on request 

  • Understands familiar action words 

  • Attends to and identifies familiar pictures 

Expressive Language 12 - 24 months 

  • Imitates play sounds (i.e., beep-beep, moo, woo-hoo, etc.)

  • Imitates words frequently and spontaneously 

  • Continues to add new words to vocabulary

  • Uses gestures (i.e., waving, pointing, etc.) to purposefully communicate

  • Names familiar/common objects

  • Uses true words within jargon 

  • Sings phrases of familiar songs independently 

  • Uses language to meet needs (“I want...”)

  • Uses a variety of consonant sounds

  • Asks "What's that?"

  • Begins to use two-word phrases spontaneously (i.e., "more please," "daddy go," etc.)

If your child is having difficulty meeting these early language milestones, it may be beneficial to seek a speech and language evaluation from a licensed speech-language pathologist or “speech therapist.” A speech therapist can help children who may be experiencing delays in meeting these important milestones in both expressive language and receptive language.

If you’re looking for a trusted, in-home speech therapy option in the Wayzata area, contact Twin Cities Speech Therapy today!

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