Detecting Speech and Language Difficulties in Young Children

Speech, language and communication skills are fundamental foundation skills for life. Many children develop these skills appropriately, but others struggle.

Research has shown that the earlier any difficulties are identified and subsequently treated, the more favourable the outcome.

The stages of speech and language development are the same for all children, but the age children reach these stages can vary. It is not possible to detect a problem when we are unaware of what is deemed “typical” in development.


However, there are some general signs that indicate a delay which should be acted on:

  • A young child who does not respond to their name or who does not make sounds should be seen by a doctor immediately.

A child should be referred to Speech and Language Therapy if:

  • by 12months of age they don’t use gestures
  • by 18 months they are not using words and have difficulty understanding basic instructions
  • by 2 years old a child has only a few words and limited ability to effectively communicate their needs and wants.

A Speech and Language Therapist will evaluate your child’s speech and language, may recommend therapy for them and will show a parent how to develop these skills at home to make maximum gains.


Elaine Baldwin is a Senior Speech and Language Therapist at Sensational Kids, a charity which provides subsidized early intervention therapies to children from its facilities in Kildare and Cork.  Visit or call 045 520 900 for further information.