When should I be worried about speech development in a child?

Illustration of Goldilocks
Children learn to speak at different rates, so it is difficult to know when to get help for your child. Talk to your health visitor, nurse or GP if you have any concerns.

If you have any concerns, even if they are not on this list, it is always best to take them to a professional. There can be various reasons for delayed development and many can be helped. It is also important to note that children develop at different rates, so if your child has not hit a milestone, it may be just their own natural pace. However it’s still good to check these out with a professional as early intervention can help. Speak to your GP, Health Visitor or Public Health Nurse if your child does not meet any of the milestones below. 

Developmental milestones adapted from the NHS and NHS Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Click here to link to NHS Norfolk website. 

By 18 months

  • Does not say their first words
  • Does not babble to communicate
  • Does not understand simple words such as ‘No’ or ‘Give me’
  • Does not use words that have a meaning such as ’Mama’ or ’Cookie’

By age 2 years

  • Does not say 25 words
  • Takes you by the hand in order to get something like a drink, rather than pointing or saying it
  • Does not join two words together

By age 4 years

  • Is struggling to form sentences
  • Language is hard to understand
  • The child is unresponsive or slow to follow instructions

By age 5 years

  • Difficulty with complex sentences and abstract idea such as time
  • Does not have the right words to say what they want
  • Has difficulty organising ideas in order
  • Misses words in sentences such as ‘Cycling school’ instead of ‘I cycle to school’
  • Speech is difficult to understand
  • Struggles with many instructions and may only respond to one
  • Is struggling at school and it is not clear why

Information.  See references here.  Date created: 1/4/2021     Date reviewed: 1/5/2022

Skip to content