About speech, language and communication development
Speech - The use
of speech sounds to express language - other ways are writing
Language - The words, and rules for
combining and using them, common to a particular group
Communication - The exchange of messages
between two or more people.
What do children need in order to develop these skills?
A combination and interaction of elements, both within the
child and in their environment, are important in helping children
develop speech, language and communication. There is no hard
and fast ‘recipe’ of these elements, but a minimum
threshold in each general area is necessary for children to
develop these skills without effort.
Elements within the child
Children need to want to communicate.
- They need to be aware of and interested in other people
to help them develop socially.
- They need to understand what communication is for.
- They need good hearing and vision.
- Their brains and nervous systems need to grow and develop.
- Their bodies need to grow and develop, for example
their respiratory system, voice box, mouth, lips and
- Their thinking skills need to develop.
Elements in the environment
Children need secure, affectionate relationships with caregivers
who enjoy communicating with them.
- They need opportunities to interact with others to
learn about prevailing cultural and social expectations,
about social interaction and to practise their communication
skills in different situations.
- They need to interact with adults so they can hear
spoken language and develop their understanding and use
- They benefit from hearing language addressed to them
which is in tune with their current level of understanding.
For younger children this includes a smaller, simplified
vocabulary, grammatically simple phrases and sentences,
exaggerated pitch and exaggerated pronunciation of key
- They need to experience events which provide opportunities
for learning associated concepts and language. Frequently
repeated routines such as having a bath and getting dressed
help children to learn about different situations and
related language. Non-routine events play an important
role in helping children learn and use less familiar
language as they get older.
- Children need to learn about the world through experiencing
it, especially through play. They need access to a wide
range of play opportunities and things in the world (animals,
books, toys, every-day objects) to support all areas
of development including cognition, language and social
What skills are expected to emerge in children at different
stages of development?
All babies and children differ in their rates of development,
including in their acquisition of communication skills. The
tables below are based on research and should be used as a
general guide only. They have not been standardized on any
group of children. Speech and language therapists use a range
of detailed, standardized tests to investigate children’s
language when necessary. The tables are reproduced from Children’s
Communication Skills: from birth to five by Belinda Buckley
Click on the links below for a general guide on
children's speech and language development at each
At three months
At six months
At nine months
At twelve months
At eighteen months
At two years
two and a half years
At three years
At four years