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Tips and tricks
I'm a mom and speech therapist here to share the strategies I use in speech therapy and at home, with my own toddler.
You may have heard different answers to this question. That’s because it depends on who you ask. Let’s go over a few:
18 months: 3 or more words
You may have heard that the CDC recently changed (i.e. lowered) their developmental milestones, including speech milestones. The CDC has 3 or more words at 18 months. It’s important to know that the CDC uses criteria of 75%, meaning 75% of children are doing X skill by a certain age. There was a lot of concern from speech therapists when this change was made because it can potentially keep children from getting identified and getting the extra help they need.
While the CDC uses a criteria of 75%, Speech Pathologists tend to use a definition that reflect more of the “average” number of words being used by a certain age group (approximately 50%).
If your child is on track with all of their developmental milestones, including play skills, motor skills, thinking skills, social skills, and understanding of language, we would expect them to have an expressive vocabulary of the following:
18 -20 months: 24 words
Your toddler should be using different types of words, such as nouns (“baby”, “cookie”), verbs (“eat”, “go”), prepositions (“up”, “down”), adjectives (“hot”, “sleepy”), and social words (“hi”, “bye”).
21-24 months: 40 words
Your toddler should be using different types of words, such as nouns (“baby”, “cookie”), verbs (“eat”, “go”), prepositions (“up”, “down”), adjectives (“hot”, “sleepy”), and social words (“hi”, “bye”)
24 months: at least 100 words
Your toddler should be combining words (“daddy go,” “ball up,” etc.)
Source: The Hanen Center
It’s important to understand the discrepancy between the using the milestones such as the CDC and the criteria Speech Pathologists use and also know that there is a range for normal! In addition to word counts, it can be helpful to consider the following:
If your child is not meeting their milestones, there are absolutely things you can do to help! Speech and language isn’t just another developmental milestone-it’s the foundation for all learning.
As a parent, you are in a powerful and unique position because there are so many things you can do to support your child’s speech development. Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered! Check out my Free Late-Talker Guide for 5 action steps you can use right away to support your toddler’s speech development at home.
Nicolosi, L, Harryman, E, & Kresheck, J (2006). Terminology of communciaiton disorders (4th ed) Baltimore: Williams & Williams
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). CDC’s Developmental Milestones. Retrieved on January 25, 2023 from CDC’s Developmental Milestones | CDC
Language development: Speech milestones for babies. Mayo Clinic website. Retrieved on January 25, 2023 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/language-development/art-20045163
Target Word™ – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children who are Late Talkers. Retrieved on January 25, 2023 from Target Word – Hanen Program for Parents of Children who are Late Talkers
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I'm a pediatric speech therapist, but most importantly, I'm a mom. I know how busy and messy toddler life can be! I'm here to show you the simple things you can do during small, everyday moments that add up that make a big difference for your child's speech and language development.
For tools and tips, follow me on Insta @TheLateTalkerSLP