We have included a little background information relevant for teachers and schools and following is a general communications checklist for children at various ages and stages of development. Please bear in mind that this checklist should not replace proper assessment by a qualified Speech Pathologist, rather we have provided it to give you a general idea of usual development milestones - allowing for individual variation.
Various studies indicate that between 3 and 10 children in an average class of 30 children will have difficulties in speech, language and/or literacy.
How do communication difficulties impact on children?
Speech, language and communication difficulties can erode self-esteem and affect educational achievement, social integration and general behaviour (reference).
Social & Emotional
Children with communication difficulties often have trouble making and maintaining friendships. These children often have low self-esteem, and can be reluctant to participate in activities, conversations or games with peers. These problems can become exacerbated with age if they remain untreated. Feelings of anger, grief, frustration and embarrassment are common among children with communication difficulties.
The residual effect of early speech and language problems can be life-long, which is why it is so important to detect and address communication difficulties. Early speech problems have been shown to negatively impact on phonological awareness development – these skills are currently thought to be the best predictor of later reading success. Speech and language problems may also impact significantly in the classroom. See Types of Communication Disorders for more information.
Children with communication difficulties may have problems expressing their thoughts and feelings and understanding what others say to them. When a child is unable to get their message across it can cause frustration and confusion. This often leads to inappropriate behaviours such as biting and hitting as this is the only effective way the child can get their message across. Addressing communication issues can reduce the use of inappropriate behaviours. A child who has difficulty with receptive language may look like they are being rebellious when they don't follow an instruction, however, they actually may not have understood what was asked of them.
Although all children develop differently, the information below gives some typical milestones achieved around or by the age heading. If a child in your class is developing six or more months below their chronological age, consider recommending contacting a Speech Pathologist to their parents/carers for further assessment.
6 months old:
· Smiles when they hear a familiar voice
· Babbles using repeated syllables ("babababa")
· Responds to their name and the word "no"
· Uses sounds or gestures to tell you that they want something
1 year old:
· Uses gestures (pointing, showing, giving, requesting)
· Recognises the names of familiar objects ("car", "eyes", "phone")
· Responds to requests ("Put it down") and questions ("More juice?")
· Uses a variety of consonants with intonation when babbling ("badabamada")
· Starts to use real words
1½ year old:
· Uses words more than gestures to communicate
· Uses words to request information and answer questions
· Understands single words for objects out of sight
· Begins to produce words with two syllables
· Starts to produce simple two word sentences
2 years old:
· Uses more than fifty real words
· Understands simple sentences ("where's your shoe?")
· Combines words into two word sentences
· Enjoys joint book reading, and answering questions about pictures and characters
· Learns to hold books the right way up and turn pages
· Speaks clearly enough to be understood unfamiliar adults 50% of the time
3 years old:
· Uses a vocabulary of 50-200+ words
· Follows 2 part directions ("Get your shoes and put them in the box")
· Uses three to four word sentences
· Says the following sounds correctly: p, b, m, w, t, d, n, k, g, h, y
· Speaks clearly enough to be understood unfamiliar adults 75% of the time
· Between three and a half and four years, early complex sentences such as those using joining words like "and", "because", "but" emerge.
4 years old:
· Asks and understands who, when, where, what and why questions
· Uses four to five word sentences
· Says the following sounds correctly: s, z, sh, ch, l, j, f
· Speaks clearly enough to be understood by unfamiliar adults 90% of the time
· Starts to use complex sentence forms such as those using joining words like "how", "what", "which", "when", "if".
5 years old:
· Understands nearly everything that is said to them
· Follows three part directions ("Stand up, get your bag and wait by the door")
· Uses long and detailed sentences of about six or more words
· Uses correct grammar most of the time
· Begins to produce both consonants of a consonant cluster (e.g. st, fl, tw)
· Speaks clearly enough to be understood almost all the time?
· Knows that print represents words
· Knows that print should be read from left to right
· Segments sentences into words and words into syllables
· Recognises and produces rhyming words and words that begin with the same sound
· Distinguishes drawing from writing
· Develops knowledge of letter names and sounds
· Begins to correctly produce the "r" sound
5 to 7 years old (Kinder to year 2):
· Uses a vocabulary of 3000 to 5000 words
· Develops an understanding of passive sentences (e.g. the dog was chased by the chicken)
· Learns exceptions to basic grammatical rules (e.g. irregular past tense (flew not flied) and irregular plurals (mice not mouses))
· Segments words into sounds and count how many sounds are in a word
· Identifies the first sound in a word and listing words starting with the same sound
· Blends three or four sounds into a word (e.g. "c" + "ar" + "d" = card)
7 to 9 years old (year 2 to year 4):
· Begins to be able to see other perspectives
· Begins to understand jokes and riddles based on sound similarities
· Understands that some words can have multiple meanings
· Begins to use figurative language
· Correctly produces the "th" sound (by 9 children should be producing all speech sounds correctly, though some difficulty with complex words may persist)
9 to 12 years old (year 4 to 6/7):
· Understands most idioms
· Uses more abstract and specific vocabulary and more complex grammatical structures in written academic tasks than in conversation
· Uses variations in word order more often in writing (e.g. around the house we put a fence)
· Reads to learn (focusing on understanding what they read)