It’s September and your child is starting  kindergarten.  You are excited and anxious but most of all you are hopeful that your son or daughter will make friends, be successful and feel  happy.  With everything that your child has been learning in preschool to be ready for this special time, how do you know if he/she is speaking the way that he/she should be?

During the early years of speech and language development children are developing rapidly growing vocabularies from their experiences.  They begin to connect their words and ideas with grammatical structures to create sentences that become increasingly longer and more complex . Some children will speak more than others and some children will speak more clearly than others.  How do you know if your child is on target?

Below are some guidelines to help you know if your child’s speech and language skills are within the range of what is expected for a kindergartner.  Your child should:

  • have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words that incudes items within  common categories such as family, food, clothing, animals, home, places and transportation
  • use grammar such as pronouns, adjectives, verb tenses, plural and possessive “s” and prepositions to put words together in sentences
  • put together related sentences using connecting words like “and, because, so, and then, but and when”
  • ask and answer basic wh-question forms like “who, what, where, what-doing” and more abstract questions like “ why, when and how
  • talk about events in the present as well as the immediate past and future
  • follow several verbal directions consistently and understand words like “first, last, before, after, more, most, less, none and some”
  • listen to a short story for approximately 15 minutes and be able to answer basic questions about the main characters and events in the story
  • engage in conversation by talking to people, asking relevant questions and staying on topic
  • speak clearly enough so family and strangers can  understand your child 90-100% of the time, despite a few sound changes that may still be present but are appropriate for his/her age

If your child is not able to do some of these, you should contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns.


We all want our children to grow up to be good communicators, but what does that mean? What we are really saying is that we want our children to be able to express themselves, to engage in appropriate conversation, to explain how they are feeling and why, to tell us about things that have happened and to be develop positive social relationships. We want our children to be able to speak clearly so they are understood by their family, friends, teachers and others in the community. We want our children to learn to be good listeners, speaking “with” people and not “at” them and to respond appropriately to what they hear.

How do you know if your child is lagging behind his or her peers and is not an effective and successful communicator? Most parents and caretakers have a good sense about whether or not their child is on the right track, but may or may not know what skills are in need of strengthening and what behaviors are getting in the way of talking, listening and/or participating. Here are some red flags to look out for that may signal that you need to look further into your child’s speech and language skills:

  • if your child is between 8-12 months of age and is not babbling (playing with different speech sounds) and/ or turning towards and looking at people who are talking
  • if your child is between 1- 1 ½ years of age and is not using meaningful words, following simple directions and/or demonstrating appropriate eye contact
  • if your child is between 1 ½ -2 years of age and is not talking with a vocabulary of at least 100 words, starting to combine words and/or understanding simple directions and questions such as “what” and “where”
  • if your child is between 2-3 years of age and is using a lot of jargon when talking (non-meaningful gibberish), pointing rather than speaking, answering your question by repeating the question, using only one-word utterances and/or does not seem to understand simple directions and questions
  • if your child is between 3-3 ½ years of age and cannot be understood most of the time, is not speaking in sentences, using grammatical endings (eg. –ing, plural “s”), talking about what other people are doing and/or responding appropriately to various questions and directions
  • if your child is 3 ½-4 years of age and is not speaking about past events, asking many questions (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), speaking in connected sentences, speaking clearly and/or following 2-3 part directions
  • if your child is 4-5 years of age and has problems with pronunciation of words, is not able to describe an outing or event, answer complex questions appropriately (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), use imaginative language in pretend play and/or follow several directions consistently

The first years of a child’s life provide the foundation for what kind of communicator your child will be. If you recognize any of the above behaviors in your child’s speech and/or language, you should contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns. If help is needed, the speech-language pathologist will recommend an individual program of activities to help your child and provide therapy if it is appropriate. Remember, we want to help our children to be the best that they can be!

What To Do If Your Child Is A Late Talker


Your child is not speaking at all or is not putting words together like his/ her peers.  How do you know if your child will eventually catch up without any help?  Well, no one has a crystal ball so you don’t know for sure but here are some questions you should ask yourself:

-does my child understand language well?

-does my child use different toys together in an imaginary way (“pretend play”)?

-does my child use appropriate  gestures to try to communicate?

-does my child point to things that are of interest to call attention?

-is my child interested in other children?

-is my child using a variety of different speech sounds ( the earliest sounds to typically emerge are b, p, m, w, t, d, n and h)?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions then you should probably have your child evaluated by a speech language pathologist  to rule out any possible problems.  If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions then things are not as clear.  It is possible that your child is a “late bloomer” who will eventually catch up to his/her peers if no other delays exist. It is also possible that your child may need help to communicate more effectively to prevent later language difficulties  You may seek out the advice of a speech-language pathologist who can guide you, work with your child and teach you strategies to improve your child’s communication and reduce frustration. At the same time, there is a lot that you can do to make language easy and fun!  Below are suggestions of how to use your daily routines and everyday play activities to stimulate your child’s language development:

-Don’t feel pressured to set up a specific time to work on getting your child to speak.  You can stimulate language all day long by commenting and asking questions about vocabulary and actions during bath time, getting dressed, mealtimes, going shopping, playtime, watching TV and riding in the car.

-Talk about activities that are meaningful to your child such as his/her body, toys, food, family, friends, clothing, experiences and movements and actions.

-Read repetitive books and sing familiar songs.  Don’t be concerned about always reading the words on the page- talk about the pictures, make it fun and be silly. Use a lot of inflection and voice changes to help draw attention to your voice and words. Try leaving out a word so your child can finish a sentence, helping him/her to predict what language comes next and to learn to say the words.

-Be a good speech model for your child! Remember that your child learns by imitating you.  Speak clearly, look at your child when you are speaking and listening and slowly expand on his/her utterances while not demanding that he/she imitate you exactly.

Any form of praise (hug, smile, kiss, hand clapping) will help your child feel more successful in his/her speech attempts.  This will also give him/her confidence to try to speak again.  Always try to have realistic expectations and keep in mind what your child is capable of saying.  If a sound, word or sentence are not said perfectly that is OK, as long as your child is trying to communicate.  Each child is an individual and learns at different rates.


HELP! Is My Child Stuttering?

Many parents panic when they hear their child repeating words when trying to talk.  Is my child stuttering?  What should I do?  The likelihood is that what your child is doing is completely normal and typical for a child who is learning how to express him/herself in more complicated ways.

So if these behaviors are normal, what IS your child doing?  We talk about speech being “fluent,” which means the person’s speech flows easily and smoothly.  When speech is “dysfluent” there are breaks in the even smooth flow of speech.  These breaks can take the form of repetitions of sounds, words, parts of words, phrases or sentences.  They can also be prolongations of sounds that are held out for too long, frequent pauses between words or revisions of what was just said.  Children who are learning language, particularly during the early preschool years, are learning new words and sentence structures while trying to express themselves in longer more complex ways.  They are also in the process of developing the fine motor muscle coordination  that is necessary for speech production.  With so much to organize and coordinate it is understandable that children have interruptions in their speech during this time of development.  Fluency, like anything else, develops gradually.  It takes time and practice.  When your child is dysfluent what you are likely hearing are “normal developmental dysfluencies.”

If your child is experiencing “developmental dysfluencies” there are several things that you can do to help your child experience more fluency :

. try to speak with your child in an unhurried way, using slow relaxed speech and pausing after every few words

. try to ask your child fewer questions, especially those that are open-ended and are not about things in the present environment

.avoid command performances or “demand speech”-asking your child to tell or perform something to a guest or relative

. allow your child to finish what he/she wants to say without interruption and do not call attention to your child’s dysfluencies- focus on the content of the speech, WHAT he/she is saying, and not how it is being said

. although this seems helpful, do not tell your child to take a deep breath, slow down or think about what you want to say before you say it

. help everyone in the family take turns when speaking to avoid interruptions and maintain consistent discipline

. avoid over scheduling of activities and try to do activities with you child that will facilitate fluency, eg. singing, reading familiar stories, engaging in low-key pleasurable play and providing slow transitional down time between activities

Above all, convey to your child that you are listening and he/she is loved.  If after several months your child’s speech has not improved, it would be beneficial to contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss recommendations for a course of action.



Is Your Child Able to Talk About a Topic in Social Situations?

Using appropriate language in social situations is key to successful communication and the development of friendships; yet, this may be challenging for many young children and adolescents. We, as parents and teachers, often observe behaviors that we peceive as being “off” but are not sure why. One area that is often a problem for children is being able to have a discussion with someone about a specific topic. This includes introducing a topic and giving a frame of reference, maintaining that topic with appropriate questions and comments, signalling when you are changing the topic and ending the topic appropriately. If these untaught rules are not followed when having a discussion with someone, the interaction may become awkward and uncomfortable. We can teach these skills to some children by bringing it to their attention. You may try writing down the specific skill that the child is not using and give examples of how it would sound in a conversation using that skill. Role-play different social situations with the child so he or she may practice using and getting comfortable with that skill. It is also helpful if you intentionally make errors in topic introduction and maintenance to help the child become aware of and recognize the behaviors you are trying to improve. Some children, however, may have difficulty due to an underlying language problem that makes it difficult for them to understand what it is they need to do when having a discussion with another person. If you recognize these kinds of social language behaviors in children you know, it may be beneficial to contact a apeech and language therapist to further explore the difficulties they are having.