Delayed speech is often a concern for many parents.  Objectively, we know that all children develop differently, but what if your first child was stringing sentences together as a toddler, and your second is almost two and has barely uttered a word!  It can be challenging not to compare your children to each other, so at what point should you be concerned? Fortunately, there are many variations of “normal” in the area of speech development, and most likely your child fits comfortably within that range.

Research has shown that there are some differences in speech patterns in first born children compared with their siblings, though the findings are not dramatic. Parents may see differences in their children’s early language development, but that has more to do with the “language environments” that each child is exposed to. For instance, first-born children may benefit from more one-to-one attention from their parents. However, later-born children may benefit from a greater variety of conversations, such as overheard conversations between caregivers and other siblings.

While research has discovered that first-born children reach the 50-word milestone earlier than later-born children, later-born children catch up quickly.  And while first-born children are typically more advanced in vocabulary and grammar, later-born children can be more advanced in their conversational skills.

All of this to say, there is no perfect time that your child will speak clearly, articulately and in full sentences. All children will develop differently, and some children are just late talkers, plain and simple. The best thing parents can do for their children is to speak directly to them, read them books daily and pay attention. If your child’s speech continues to be a concern, check out this chart from Kids Health, on when to contact your doctor:

  • by 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
  • by 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate
  • by 18 months: has trouble imitating sounds and has trouble understanding simple verbal requests
  • by 2 years: can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously
  • by 2 years: says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs
  • by 2 years: can’t follow simple directions
  • by 2 years: has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
  • is more difficult to understand than expected for his or her age:
    • Parents and regular caregivers should understand about half of a child’s speech at 2 years and about three quarters at 3 years.
    • By 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.