The 3 Speech Benchmarks 3-Year-Olds Should Have

Although toddlers reach language milestones at different ages, substantial delays can be associated with long term language problems. Given that, it’s worth giving careful consideration to benchmarks at different key ages. For example, a typical milestone is using 50 words by age two – though recent research suggests that a more telling indicator may be functional use of 25 words by that age. Perhaps less attention is typically given to language milestones at later ages – even though these can signal the need for evaluation and intervention.

To this end, Dr. Leslie Rescorla – a leading expert on language delay – has offered 3 speech benchmarks for 3-year-olds:

1) Using 3-4 word sentences with subject-verb-object (e.g., “I like ice cream”)
2) Can be understood consistently by most people – not just family members
3) Using the following: -ing (e.g., “crying”); in/on (e.g., “on the table”), plural forms (e.g., “two cars”), and possessives (e.g., “daddy’s car”)

This array of speech benchmarks provides a good indicator of a 3-year-old’s emerging language skills. Delays on one or more of these do not necessarily indicate the need for intervention. That said, there is utility to having your pediatrician determine if an evaluation by language experts is warranted – for one principle we have learned is that early intervention can be very beneficial for toddlers. It’s better to evaluate early and intervene if necessary rather than simply “wait and see.”

Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months

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