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  • Rachel Pessah, M.Cl.Sc., Reg. CASLPO

Great Expectations

As a mother of a toddler, my poor daughter is constantly being compared to my expectations. If I'm being completely honest, at 11 months I caught myself wondering why she wasn't already walking and talking. Despite years of advanced training in child development, I clearly set unrealistic expectations for my child! Are you creating unrealistic expectations for your child too?

I often get asked by parents, "What should I expect?" As parents, we are often guilty of comparing our children to other children in the same age group. The problem with comparing is that there is a HUGE range of what is considered “normal.”

The other day I was visiting a daycare and was surrounded by 10 toddlers. What fascinated me is that one of the children had more than 1000 words and was combining words into short sentences while another child, around the same age, appeared to have about 50 words and spoke in single words, yet both children demonstrated age appropriate language skills.

So what does the research say about typical language development?

At 12 months

  • Uses 1-5 words

  • Speaks in jargon (babble that sounds like words)

  • Understands 3-50 words

At 18 months

  • Uses 50-100 words

  • Beginning to combine 2 words

  • Beginning to use words more than gestures to communicate

At 24 months

  • Uses 200-300 words

  • Speech is understood about 50% of the time by an unfamiliar listener

  • Often combining 2 words

At 36 months

  • Understands and uses questions about objects (What? Who? Where?)

  • Speech is understood about 75% of the time by an unfamiliar listener

  • Can make the speech sounds: m, b, y, n, w, d, p, h

At 48 months

  • Understood close to 100% of the time by an unfamiliar listener

  • Can make the speech sounds: t, k, g, ng, f, ch, j

  • Speaks in sentences

The above information is meant to provide a brief overview of what to expect at each age. A speech and language assessment looks beyond these milestones at the whole child, including non-verbal communication, play, listening/understanding, and the function/use of language. When a comprehensive evaluation is completed, it is possible for your child to be slightly behind in one area and still fall within the range of "normal" for their age.

What can I do if I think my child is not meeting these milestones?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development trust your gut! No one knows your child better than you! Don't wait! It is a good idea to rule-out hearing and vision difficulties if your child is not meeting these milestones. Children rely on their vision to see mouth movements, facial expressions, and gestures. Vision is also important for early reading and writing skills. Being able to hear and learn sounds and words plays an important role in language and speech development.

If your child is under 5 years of age and you suspect speech or language is delays, speech-language pathology services are available at no cost through the Porcupine Health Unit (see link below for details).


These websites provide excellent ideas and strategies to facilitate early language skills:



  • The Hanen Centre -

Continue to come back to this blog for early language tips and strategies!


Goldman, R., & Fristoe, M. (2015). The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation - Pearson Education Inc. (3rd ed.).

Paul, R., Norbury, C. (2012). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Communicating - Elsevier Ebook on Vitalsource (4th ed.). St. Louis, MI: Mosby Inc.

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