close   X

5/7/21 blog post

does my toddler have a speech disorder?

signs of a speech or language disorder in a young child

With speech and language disorders among the most common conditions that young children experience, parents and caregivers can learn the signs of communication disorders—and seek an evaluation now if they have any concerns. The message is a timely one, as May is national Better Hearing & Speech Month.

“Many parents have questions about their child’s speech, language, or social communication skills but are often told by family, friends, or even other professionals to wait and see if their child outgrows a potential problem,” said Kaitlyn Johnson, Dayton Children’s speech and language pathologist. “Unfortunately, this often results in a delayed diagnosis of a disorder that is highly treatable—especially when caught early.”

So what should caregivers be looking for?

8 signs of a speech or language disorder in a young child (age 3 and under):


  1. Does not smile or interact with others (birth and older)
  2. Does not babble ​(by 7-8 months) 
  3. Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)
  4. Does not understand what others say (​9 months – 2 years)
  5. Says only a few words (by 18 months)
  6. Says words that are not easily understood by others (18 months – 2 years)
  7. Does not put words together to make sentences (by 2 years)
  8. Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)

“It’s really important now, as some children who traditionally would have been referred for speech and language services by a daycare provider or pediatrician may have been missed due the pandemic—since many kids remained at home, with more limited interaction with these professionals,” says Kaitlyn. 

3 key benefits of early treatment:

Save time and money. It can take less time to treat a communication delay or disorder when families act on the early warning signs. Fewer treatment sessions can also mean fewer out-of-pocket expenses.

Prepares a child for kindergarten. Early treatment can reduce the need for school-based services later. Treatment at any age is worthwhile, but earlier is most effective. What happens between birth and age 3 lays the foundation for kindergarten readiness. Strong speech, language, cognitive, and social skills are necessary for reading, writing, and academic success—as well as all the other demands of school.

Sets a child on a course to school, social, and life success. All families want what’s best for their children. Acting early can have positive, long-lasting effects on your child’s communication, social relationships, learning, and daily life activities well into adulthood.

If you have concerns about your child, or your child has signs of a speech or language disorder, contact your primary care doctor right away.

Click here for more information on speech and language services at Dayton Children's.