How To Identify Speech Delay In Kids

How To Identify Speech Delay In Kids

Early identification of speech delays increases the chances for improving communication skills

Your child is growing really well and has been meeting most of his milestones. But you’re noticing that he doesn’t seem to say very much especially when compared to his peers. Everyone is telling you that it’s fine, because girls tend to “catch on” faster, while boys tend to take longer picking up skills anyway.

So you decide that it’s alright and that he will catch up soon enough, and you don’t bring up your concerns or seek professional advice on the matter. This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak.

Knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.

speech delay

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Red Flags of Speech Delay

According to The Early Autism Project, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has listed down the usual red flags of speech delay that parents should look out for in a child. These include:

  • No babbling or cooing by 12 months
  • No gestures (finger point, wave or grasp) by 12 months
  • No single words by 16 months
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of language skill at any age

Normal Speech and Language Development

Always discuss early speech and language development, as well as other developmental concerns, with your doctor or local Klinik Kesihatan at every routine visit. It may not be so easy to tell whether a child is just slower to communicate or has a problem that requires professional attention.

I took some time and read through both Kad Kesihatan Kanak-Kanak and Child Health booklet from the medical centre where my kids were born and summarise these milestones to meet:


Babies should be able to respond to their own names, respond to sounds by making sounds and make sounds to show joy or displeasure. Babbles Da or Ba, laughter, chuckles and squeals. They should also be able to make consonant sounds – babbles we hear often have consonant sounds with “m” and “b” letter sounds.


Imitates sounds dada, baba.


For this milestone, children should be able to imitate the words that you say. They should also have simple gestures, such as waving bye-bye or shaking their head to communicate “no”. Usually by 1 year, children will begin to call out to their parents, like “mama” and “dada”. They should also be able to say monosyllable words and if they are still babbling, they would babble in rhythms.

speech delay



Children should be able to point to pictures or things in a book. By 2 years, children also should be able to say sentences with two to four words. More specifically, they would also be able to know names of familiar people or body parts. They should also be able to respond to simple commands or instructions.


Here, children can usually say their first name, age and sex. They should be able to say words like “I”, “me”, “we” and “you”. They should be able to use words to form short sentences and relate their experience. Simple questions shouldn’t be a problem. With more social interaction, they should also be able to name a friend and most familiar things.


Children should be able to say their first and last name. They are typically also able to sing a song or a nursery rhyme from memory or tell imaginative stories. They should speak clearly and start talking in sentences. They should also be able to express their needs clearly like thirsty, hungry and sleepy.

Every Child is Different

While every child learns differently and at varying pace, these are general speech developmental milestones to meet. It is listed in every Kad Kesihatan Kanak-Kanak or Child Health booklets and it is crucial you monitor that your child meets these milestones. A child can quickly fall behind if speech and language learning is delayed. Early identification increases the chances for improving communication skills through professional help.


Sources: Early Autism Project, KidsHealth

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