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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 27, 2006

When is baby talk no longer cute?

By Doug Worgul
Knight Ridder News Service

A boy makes the sign for "nose" on the TV show "I Can Sign." Kids 18 to 23 months old should be able to do this, according to the National Institutes of Health.


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When your 2-year-old says "No wanna take baff," you know what she means. No need to correct her. Besides, it's cute.

When your 6-year-old asks "What time ith my baythbaw game?" it's worrisome, not cute.

Are such speech defects serious? Will they go away on their own? Does your child need a speech therapist?

A child might benefit from speech therapy for a variety of reasons, including the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering, lisps and speech or language delay. The National Institutes for Health have identified the following milestones as markers for the development of speech and language abilities. If your child is not showing progress, consult your pediatrician. Speech and language deficits are sometimes symptoms of cognitive or neurological problems.

18-23 MONTHS

Children should:

  • Enjoy being read to.

  • Follow simple commands without gestures.

  • Point to simple body parts such as "nose."

  • Understand simple verbs such as "eat," "sleep."

  • Correctly pronounce most vowels and the consonants n, m, p, h, especially at the beginning of syllables and short words.

  • Begin to use other speech sounds.

  • Say eight to 10 words (pronunciation may still be unclear).

  • Ask for common foods by name. Make animal sounds.

  • Start to combine words such as "more milk."

  • Begin to use pronouns such as "mine."

    2-3 YEARS

    Children should:

  • Know about 50 words at 24 months.

  • Know some spatial concepts such as "in."

  • Know pronouns such as "you," "me," "her."

  • Know descriptive words such as "big," "happy."

  • Say about 40 words at 24 months.

  • Have speech that is becoming more accurate.

  • Answer simple questions.

  • Begin to use more pronouns such as "you," "I."

  • Speak in two- to three-word phrases.

  • Use question inflection to ask for something.

  • Begin to use plurals such as "shoes" or "socks" and past-tense verbs such as "jumped."

    3-4 YEARS

    Children should:

  • Group objects such as foods and clothes.

  • Identify colors.

  • Use most speech sounds but may distort some of the more difficult sounds such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th. (These sounds may not be mastered until age 7 or 8.)

  • Use consonants in the beginning, middle and end of words.

  • Be able to describe the use of objects such as "fork" or "car."

  • Have fun with language.

  • Enjoy poems and recognize language absurdities such as, "Is that an elephant on your head?"

  • Express ideas and feelings.

  • Answer simple questions.

    Sources: www.nidcd.nih.gov, www.parentcenter.babycenter.com