Child Communication Skills Test

by Dorothy P. Dougherty

May, Better Hearing and Speech Month, is a great time to take a close look at your child’s communication skills. Forty-six million Americans, including eight to ten percent of our preschool children have difficulty communicating. Research has shown that children with speech and language problems are more at risk for developing reading problems, and may fall below their peers in academic achievement.

Parents of children who are slow to speak sometimes hesitate to seek professional advice. Instead, they justify their child’s not talking by saying, “She understands everything we say,” or, “He’ll outgrow it, he’s a boy.” Because of the enormous variation in what is considered normal, children who are not quite on schedule may not necessarily be delayed, but, instead, may be following their own individual timetable for learning to talk. However, parents should not rely on assumptions or the fact that some children talk late, but catch-up. It is very important that your child show continued progression from one stage to the next and that you are able to answer ALWAYS or SOMETIMES to the questions below. It is always wise to seek a professional evaluation if, at any age, you have questions about your child’s development in any area, your child does not seem to be learning new words, and/or he suddenly stops talking.


  1. Does my three-month-old child turn to the sound of my voice and other sounds?
  2. Does my eight-month-old child imitate speech sounds and use sounds to get attention?
  3. Does my eight to twelve-month-old child look at people who talk to him and show an interest and intention to communicate?
  4. Does my twelve to fifteen-month-old child have a wide range of speech sounds in his babbling and jargoning?
  5. Does my twelve to fifteen-month-old child say at least one or two meaningful words?
  6. Does my twelve to fifteen-month-old child follow simple requests, such as “Look at the dog,” and understand simple questions, such as, “Do you want some more juice?”
  7. Does my eighteen-month-old child express at least ten words?
  8. Does my eighteen to twenty-four-month old child follow simple, one step requests, such as, “Please get the ball?”
  9. Does my two-year-old child have a vocabulary of fifty or more clear words or word approximations, such as, “sue” for “shoe,” and is learning to join two words together?
  10. Does my two-year-old child ask simple questions and respond to simple questions with yes and no?
  11. Does my two and a half-year-old child understand simple stories and conversations?
  12. Does my two and a half-year-old child use three words together such as, “my big blocks?”
  13. Does my three-year-old child ask and answer where, what, and who questions?
  14. Does my three-year old child start conversations?
  15. Does my three-year old child use four word sentences to talk and make requests?
  16. Does my three-year old child follow two step directions, such as, “Get the doll and put it in the box?”

How to Seek Professional Help

A Speech and Language Pathologist is trained to evaluate and treat children and adults with speech and/or language problems. For children, he or she may administer tests that show how much language is understood (receptive language skills) and how much is spoken (expressive language skills). He or she may also listen to how a child speaks in different setting and determine why he may be slow to develop language. With this information in hand, he or she can then offer suggestions for stimulating language development or suggest a more formal treatment program.

If your child is a late talker, taking him to a Speech and Language Patholgist may help you to achieve peace of mind when you learn that he is developing as he should, or get your child needed help early and possibly avoid future learning and/or behavioral problems. For assistance in finding a Speech and Language Pathologist in your area, you may contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assoication (800-638-8255 or 301-897-8662), or your local school district. If you have any questions or concerns, it is certainly not necessary, or wise, to wait until your child is in school, as your local school district or county health department is required to provide appropriate free services for children from birth to five years of age

Copyright Dorothy P. Dougherty
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Dorothy P. Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech/Language Pathologist is the  author of How To Talk To Your Baby: A Guide to Maximizing Your Child’s Language and Learning Skills (Perigree/Putnam, 1999)
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