Parent question: What are two year old speech milestones?

Parent question: What are Two Year Old Speech Milestones?


One of the parents coming to Therapy Works Together for a screening for her child asked the speech therapist: “What are two year old speech milestones? I’m not sure what my child should be saying.”


Kids are growing up so fast and are exposed to many different experiences these days. Some kids end up going to daycare or preschool earlier than others and parents may end up seeing other kids that may seem more verbal or talkative than theirs. Or may sound more clear when they speak.


Like this parent, many are wondering if their child is on track with their two year old speech milestones when compared with others.  So the speech therapists at Therapy Works Together put together this guide for parents with two year old speech milestones, when to be concerned and how speech therapy can help.


What are Two Year Old Speech Milestones?


Your 24 month old toddler should have achieved the following speech milestones:

  • Says sentences with at around two words such as “mommy more,” “gimme cookie”
  • Understands and uses at least 50 words
  • Follow simple instructions
  • Starts conversations with others
  • Uses social words such as “hi”, “bye”, “thanks”, “please” and has interest in social interactions
  • Plays next to other children and imitates adult behaviors when playing together
  • A stranger should be able to understand about 50% of a child’s speech


What are Some Red Flags for Two Year Olds?


Parents need to understand what two year old speech milestones are so that they know when to get help from their pediatrician or a speech pathologist. Parents might be concerned about a child’s speech delay if they haven’t begun talking yet, which is normal. So they can review the following risk factors and then have better information about what to discuss during a checkup or screening.


Risk Factors for a Speech Delay


According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, a child with any of the issues on this list does not mean they definitely have a language delay. Yet they may be more at risk and parents should have a child evaluated to determine if their speech and language is at a developmentally appropriate level.


If a child is between 18 and 30 months old and not speaking, parents can see if they can identify these factors, which when present can mean their child is at an increased risk for language problems.


  • Understanding Language: Before they use words (speaking), a child normally comprehends or understands what they hear. This is called receptive language. When you name an object, your child may be able to point to it and follow simple instructions. Your child is more likely to catch up with their speech and language abilities if their receptive language is intact and at a higher risk for a delay if they don’t understand what is being said.
  • Gesture Use: A child may communicate using gestures, particularly before they say many words. Pointing, waving “hello” or “bye,” and raising their arms to be picked up are all examples of gestures. The more gestures a child makes, the more likely they are to catch up to peers their age. If a child does not use many gestures, they may struggle to learn language.
  • Learn and Use New Words: Even if your child learns language slowly, they should be learning new words all the time. They should be putting together simple phrases and asking questions. In addition, a child should not lose speech or language skills that they already acquired.


What Can Parents Do to Improve a Child’s Speech Development?


Parents and caregivers play a critical role in the development of their child’s speech and language. Here are some suggestion for what parents can do to help their child improve:


Reading Books Together: This is one of the most effective ways to promote language development. Studies have found that children get more exposure to a greater variety of vocabulary when reading picture books as opposed to hearing adults speak.


Teach Your Child Sign Language: Contrary to what most parents believe, teaching your toddler to sign will not replace their using speech. Parents can start with a few signs like “more,” “milk,” and “all done.” Giving your toddler the ability to communicate with sign language may give them greater confidence in their communication. By assisting kids in communicating with less frustration may also decrease tantruming.


Use the Expansion Technique:  When your child says something, no matter how short, you can expand on what they say. For example, if your child sees a cat and says the word “cat,” you could expand and respond by saying, “little cat.”


If your child is not saying a grammatically correct sentence, you can also add the missing word. For example, if your child says, “the cat little,” you can reply and expand by saying, “the cat is little.”


There are other great speech therapy strategies we recommend using such as the “piece by piece” technique you can read about here.


How To Tell If A Two Year Old May Have Autism?


Many parents also ask our speech therapists if their child might have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Speech and language issues often go along with autism and so parents should be aware of the following signs. If they see these signs in their child, a pediatrician or speech therapist should be contacted as soon as possible as early intervention helps improve language skills when treated early.

  • Repeating and not creating phrases can be echolalia
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Limited verbal and nonverbal communication (limited or no gesture use)
  • Limited or no social interaction (no eye contact, no responding to their name)
  • Regression or loss of language that was used previously
  • Infrequent eye contact
  • Difficulty in showing affection

Just because a two year old child has some of these signs does not mean that they have Autism. Parents should make a note of what they observe so that they can discuss these concerns with their pediatrician and request an evaluation from a speech therapist.


Can Speech Therapy Help a Two Year old Improve Their Speech?


Speech therapy is the first line of treatment for children two year old that are delayed in their speech or language development and has excellent results when treatment is provided early. In fact, by the time they start school, a child may have caught up with other kids their age.


When there is a more complex diagnosis like autism, speech therapy can be effective as part of a bigger treatment plan. The speech language therapist can work as part of an interdisciplinary team with occupational therapists, physical therapists and more to help your child make improvements.


Therapy Works Together – Online Speech Therapy for Children and Adults


We care about every child and adult achieving their speech, language and communication goals. You can start speech therapy online now with a certified speech language therapist. We’ll discuss your personal needs, develop an individualized treatment plan, and schedule affordable online therapy sessions online at your convenience.

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