Language Development

Children's Service Areas

Treating stuttering (dysfluency), kids playing together

What therapy looks like: 18 months

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Language development has two parts: understanding words (receptive language) and speaking words (expressive language) according to a system of rules.

Receptive Language: A child who has difficulty understanding the meaning of words (vocabulary) and the rules for putting the words together (grammar) is said to have a receptive language delay. These children often have difficulty following directions and/or learning tasks.

Expressive Language: A child who has difficulty using appropriate words (vocabulary) and speaking these words in the correct order (grammar) is said to have an expressive language delay. These children often sound younger than their age.

Language Development Norms

18 months


  • minimum 10 words


  • approximately 100 words
  • follows simple instructions

2 years


  • approximately 200 words
  • produces 2-3 word sentences
  • asks “what’s this, “where’s my”, questions
  • uses 2 word negative phrases (e.g., “no want”, “not go”)


  • follows 2 step instructions
  • identifies body parts

3 years


  • approximately 1000 words in spoken vocabulary
  • conversational speech, sentence length 3-4 words


  • follows 3 step instructions
  • answers “Who”, “Why”, “Where”, “How many” questions

4 years


  • approximately 1500 words
  • uses regular and irregular past-tense
  • uses contractions “it’s a” or “there’s a”
  • sentence length 4-5 words
  • uses the word “will” (future tense)


  • identifies primary colours
  • identifies basic shapes
  • follows instructions even though objects not present

5 years


  • approximately 2000 words
  • sentence length 5-6 words
  • uses all pronouns


  • understands spatial relations “on top”, “behind”, “far”, “near”
  • understands common opposites