Speech and Language Development | Telethon Speech & Hearing

Delayed Speech & Language Development in Children

Developing a Child’s Speech and Language Skills

The ability to understand and be understood is critical to being able to function effectively in the modern world.

Everything from socialising with friends to holding gainful employment requires a gamut of speech and language, social and literacy skills that have their foundations in childhood.

However, for children with speech and language delays, some or all of these skills are not so easy to come by. These children may need a more intensive approach to learn how to understand what has been said, to form sounds correctly or to know how to put words together in effective sentences.

Achieving functional speech and language skills are essential for a child to be able to:

  • Express their wants and needs
  • Socialise with their peers
  • Learn
  • Develop early literacy skills
  • Have the confidence to function within the wider community
  • And ultimately, the ability to live an independent life

Developing a Child's Speech and Language Skills

Speech and language milestones

Every child acquires speech and language skills at their own rate. However, generally speaking there is a common timetable for when we can expect to see a child reach certain milestones:

Understanding and Listening

  • Understands about 50 common words such as ‘drink’, ‘car’, ‘shoe’.
  • Understands simple instructions such as ‘Come here’, ‘Stop’, ‘Kiss mummy’.


  • Copies words and sounds other people say such as ‘mamma’ and ‘woof’.
  • Uses between 5-20 simple words although may not always be understood by unfamiliar adults.

Understanding and Listening

  • Understands about 500 words.
  • Understands instructions such as ‘Go and get your teddy’.
  • Understands simple questions such as ‘Where is your shoe?’


  • Says more than 50 single words.
  • Starts to put 2-3 word sentences together such as ‘More juice’ or ‘Want more juice’.
  • Can be understood by a familiar adult about half of the time.

Understanding and Listening

  • Understands longer instructions involving 2 steps such as ‘Find the cup and put it in the red bucket’.
  • Understands concepts of size (big and little) and position (in, on, under).
  • Understands ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions and simple ‘What?’,
    ‘Where?’ and ‘Who?’ questions.


  • Makes 4-5 word sentences such as ‘I want more juice please’.
  • Uses a variety of words for names, actions, locations and descriptions. E.g. ‘run’ and ‘fall’.
  • Can be understood by an adult most of the time.

Understanding and Listening

  • Follows more complicated instructions involving two-steps such as ‘Get your bag and put your shoes on’.
  • Understands more complex questions such as ‘Who?’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’?


  • Uses longer sentences and links sentences together to retell a story.
  • Describes events that have already happened such as ‘We went to the park’.
  • Asks many questions using words like ‘What?’, ‘Where’ and ‘Why?’.
  • Speech is easy to understand.

Understanding and Listening

  • Understands more complicated language such as ‘First’, ‘Last’, ‘Maybe’, ‘In between’.
  • Understands the concept of opposites such as ‘The opposite of hot is cold.’
  • Follows instructions involving 3 steps such as ‘Get your book, put it in your bag and then put your bag by the door.


  • Beginning to tell news.
  • Uses well-formed sentences and joins sentences using ‘and’, ‘then’, ‘because’ and ‘but’.
  • Speech is easy to understand.

What should I do if I have concerns about my child’s speech and language abilities?

If you think your child may be experiencing speech and language difficulties, Telethon Speech & Hearing can help guide you to make the right decision for your child.

Outcomes from our 2019 Family Survey indicated that 100% of families found our Talkabout Program was meeting their child’s needs, while 95.7% of families believed that their child’s confidence had improved since attending the program.

The best teacher is YOU

If you have sought professional help through programs such as Talkabout, then your child’s future is already looking brighter. However the most important teacher in your child’s life isn’t the specialist – it is you. The way you model language and interact with your child on a daily basis is crucial to their ultimate success in the speaking world.

Don’t worry though, you’re not expected to do it alone. The professional staff at Telethon Speech & Hearing are here to help you.

Have fun and join in your child’s learning journey – it’s the most rewarding job you will ever do.

Learn more about our specialised language program, Talkabout, by clicking here.