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Speech therapy for toddlers: 5 indicators your toddler needs a speech therapist

Speech therapy for toddlers: 5 indicators your toddler needs a speech therapist

Worried about the way your 2-4 year old speaks? This parent-friendly guide gives the 5 most common signs that your child might need the support of a speech therapist. This expert advice is given by children’s Speech Pathologist Brenna Donovan from Kids First in Sydney’s northern beaches.


Toddlers often mispronounce words and have trouble putting sentences together. As toddlers are learning how to talk, they are exploring different ways to use their tongue, teeth, and lips to make new sounds, as well as discovering how to put words together to make sentences.

Think back to when your toddler learned to walk… they were a bit wobbly at first, but after lots of practise, they became quite good (and very quick!)

It’s the same story for speech development.

At first, your toddler may not be very clear or may not use many words, but after continued practise, their speech should improve. If your toddler’s speech doesn’t seem to be continually improving, this may indicate the need to see a speech pathologist.

Your toddler should see a speech pathologist if they are:

• Talking very little or not talking at all

By 2 ½ years of age, your toddler should be understanding approximately 1000 words and using approximately 500 words.

• Using only single words

By age 2, your toddler should be combining at least 2 words together to make simple phrases (“mummy up” , “drink please”) and by age 3, your toddler should be combining 4-5 words in sentences.

• Having trouble following simple directions

For example, if your child does not turn around when his/her name is called or when you say “The ball is right behind you.” Toddlers should understand prepositions like under, over, or on. Your toddler should be able to point to objects in story books when asked a simple “what” or “where” question (“Where is the cup?”).

• Difficult to understand

By age 2, children should be understood by an unfamiliar communication partner at least 50% of the time and by age 3, 75% of the time. If your toddler is very difficult to understand, they may need help learning to pronounce their sounds correctly.

• Repeating words or parts of words when talking (e.g. “I-I-I-I want some milk please”)

This could indicate your child has a stutter. While speaking, it is normal to occasionally repeat words, however, if your toddler is doing this often, it is best to seek the advice of a speech pathologist.
Be sure that your toddler’s speech is improving over time. If you see little to no improvement in their speech month-to-month, it may be time to seek the advice of a speech pathologist.

Worried about your toddler’s speech?

Kids First’s paediatric speech pathologists have helped hundreds of toddlers to resolve speech and language problems.

If you are concerned for your child and live in Sydney’s northern beaches, call us today on (02) 9938 5419 to make an appointment with a member of our experienced team.

© 2015 Kids First Children’s Services

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