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How to prevent language development delays in young children

Published on July 22, 2021 at 1:15

Between birth and the age of 5, children’s language abilities explode. From birth, a newborn expresses itself by crying, then by smiling. Then comes the first babbling, followed by actual words. During all these stages, a young child develops their language skills. It is therefore in these early months of life that parents can work to stimulate oral expression and comprehension. And if it seems that your child is experiencing delays in their language development, early intervention is possible.

Steps to observe

It may be difficult for some parents to know if their child's language learning is progressing at a normal rate. Do they speak? Yes. Do they have trouble understanding? Yes. Is this normal? We don’t know. Of course, you can always compare your child to other children around you, but be aware that there are normal steps for all babies and toddlers.

Between 2 months and 2 years

From 2 to 6 months: The baby babbles, vocalizes, and responds to their name.

From 6 to 8 months: "Dialogue" is possible, the baby recognizes familiar words, can say "ga-ga-ga", and can make small gestures.

From 9 to 13 months: They can produce their first words. 

Between 2 and 5 years

At 2 years old: The child produces longer sentences and understands instructions.

At 3 years old: The child can hold small conversations with complete sentences, and their language is understandable.

At 4 years old: The child can tell a story, makes complete and well-constructed sentences, and masters verb tenses.

At 5 years old: The child speaks like an adult, has well-organized speech, understands stories well and answers questions, develops an interest in words, letters, rhymes and short poems.

Warning signs of delayed development

Delayed language development in children can cause behavioural difficulties. If a child has difficulty expressing themself, they will experience frustration and even aggression. It’s good to get the opinion of an early childhood worker or a teacher, but to make an accurate diagnosis, consultation with a speech therapist is recommended.

Here are the most common language and speech disorders:


Is the mixing and inversion of letters in reading and writing. There is also inversion of sounds in pronunciation and a slowness decoding syllables and words. In a dyslexic reader, unlike a beginner child, the difficulties persist.

Dysphasia, also called a language disorder

Is a more pronounced and general disorder of expression and comprehension, which results in disjointed speech and poor speech. Without professional intervention, the child's future development will be affected on a more permanent basis.

Language delay

Do not confuse dysphasia with language delay. Language delay occurs when the child progresses more slowly than other children of the same age when learning language and speech.


is a known disorder. The cause of stuttering is not known, but it is suspected that it has genetic origins. It appears between the ages of 3 and 5 and often disappears around the age of 6. Consonants collide and get stuck together, and the rapid repetition prevents speech from being fluent and easily-understood.

Daily tips

Intervention can help develop children’s speech and prevent early language delays and temporary difficulties.

From a newborn’s first days, there are things we can do each day:

Talk to them a lot, explain what you do during your activities, comment on what happens during your walks, ask them questions to get them to communicate. Involve older children and other family members by having them play with the infant to stimulate them. And above all, read them stories: in addition to enriching their vocabulary and stimulating their imagination, you’ll enjoy wonderful moments of bonding.

Get rid of the pacifier

Changes in chewing and swallowing occur around the age of 3, and if the child still uses a pacifier, they may develop speech problems. Not to mention the problems that can affect their teeth. According to pediatricians, consider gently removing the pacifier as of the age of 2 years.

When should you see a speech therapist?

If your child presents persistent difficulties in expression and comprehension, you should meet with a speech therapist to assess their language skills, get the correct diagnosis and establish an intervention plan to be implemented at school and at home.

It can be difficult to access speech-language pathology services, reports the Association québécoise des orthophonistes et audiologistes. If you’re waiting for service, you can ask your questions directly on their website at

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