As an Early Intervention Specialist working with children Birth - 3 years old, you might be surprised to learn that one of the biggest referral ages into Speech and Language Therapy is at the 2 year mark. A lot of Speech and Language happens between the 1 year and 2 year mark. At 1 year most babies are expected to have approximately 10 words. As parents monitor their child's Speech and Language Development over the course of the next year we find that a lot of Pediatrician's take a bit of a "wait and see" or "it'll come" approach. However, at that 2 year check-up if your child isn't hitting the Norms this is when referrals by Pediatricians typically get made.
It's important to remember that all children grow and progress at different rates. Some kids may be right on track, some kids slightly under the expectation, and others well above what would be expected at their age. It becomes concerning when your child is far from developmental expectation and this is when outside support should be sought out. At 2 years old we expect toddlers to have a minimum of 50 to 75 words that they are using spontaneously and consistently. We would like to see a wide variety of types of words used at this point including names, action words, nouns, etc. In addition to having at minimum 50-75 words we also expect to see 2 word combinations starting to emerge. A combination is when a child strings two individual thoughts/words together to convey a message. Phrases such as "thank you," "that's mine," and "love you" are not typically considered combinations. These are considered what we'd call "chunks" or "catch-phrases" because these words always come as a pair. You are looking to see if your child is combining two individual thoughts such as "more mama," "up daddy, and "go ball." At two years old a typically developing toddler will have a minimum of 50-75 words and be starting to build their language by combining two individual thoughts into a phrase.
How can you tell if your child is doing this? It's simple! Grab a pen and pad of paper and over the course of 24 hours write down all of the words that your child is saying spontaneously. After a word is said once no need to add it to the list again as your are working to obtain a word count for your child. Make sure to include all 2 word combinations your child says and to only add words to the list that your child said on their own, not something they repeated after hearing you say it.
After 24 hours count the number of words on your list. Are there 50+ words? If there are, your child's vocabulary is developing at an age appropriate manner. Are there some two word combinations on your child's word list? There are? Great! Continue to encourage your child to build language by modeling a second word each time your child says only one word. For example if your child says, "doggy," model back, "big doggy!"
If you find yourself reviewing your child's list and there are very few words, for example 10-20, or if there are many words but no combinations then this is a time to seek outside support. Don't panic! As mentioned above all children progress on their own timelines. The key is to put supports in place to help your child learn to better communicate so that they do begin to build their vocabulary and language. At this point it is important to speak with your Pediatrician regarding your toddler's Speech and Language Development, contact your local Early Intervention Program, or contact a local Speech Language Pathologist.
When contacting your local Early Intervention Program and requesting an evaluation to see if your child is eligible for services make sure to request that the evaluation is done by a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Many Early Intervention Programs use a general developmental evaluation that doesn't always pick-up on Speech and Language Delays.
By tracking your 2 year old's words and combinations you can monitor when intervention is necessary. If you aren't sure how your child is doing or would just like a second opinion reach out to a local Speech Language Pathologist. Most offer free 30 minute phone consultations and can help you to determine the best path for your child and family!
Remember 50+ words at 2 and 2 word combinations starting to emerge!