Should I be concerned that my 2-year-old doesn't say many words and is hard to understand?
Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
If you're unable to understand any of your 2-year-old's words, talk to your child's doctor about scheduling an evaluation. Speech delay can be an early sign of other developmental issues.
Although every child grows and develops at his or her own pace, toddler speech development tends to follow a fairly predictable path. For example, the average 2-year-old:
- Speaks at least 50 words
- Links two words together, such as "my cup" or "no juice"
- Speaks clearly enough for parents to understand about half of the words
The average 3-year-old:
- Speaks 250 to 500 or more words
- Speaks in three- and four-word sentences
- Correctly uses pronouns (I, me, you, mine)
- States first name
- Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand about 75 percent of the time
Your child's doctor will likely consider possible underlying reasons for a speech delay, from hearing problems to developmental disorders. If necessary, he or she might refer your child to a speech-language pathologist or a developmental pediatrician. Treatment options for toddler speech development depend on what's causing the speech delay and its severity. When treated early, however, speech and language delays and disorders generally improve over time.
Feb. 11, 2016
- McInerny TK, et al. Language and speech assessment. In: American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009.
- Berkowitz CD. Speech and language development: Normal patterns and common disorders. In: Berkowitz's Pediatrics: A Primary Care Approach. 5th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014.
- Speech and language developmental milestones. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/speechandlanguage.aspx. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.