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My Child has a Language Delay. What can I do?

What is a language delay?

A language delay is when a child has difficulties understanding and may challenges in using spoken language. These difficulties are not typical or are unusual for the child’s age. These difficulties might be with: saying first words or learning how to put words together, making sentences or understanding words in sentences (Raising Children Network, 2022).

It has been estimated that between 16 and 21% of five year olds experience speech or language difficulties, with up to 50% of these children have problems in both areas (Reilly et al., 2010).

Children with poor language skills may have:

  • Language impairments or delay can cause reading difficulties which can led to school achievements and can impact associated behavioral difficulties (Durkin et al., 2011; Schoon et al., 2010).

  • Ongoing communication problems in adulthood (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992).

  • Without targeted intervention this impact can be lasting which may affect future employment prospects (Beitchman et al., 1994).

In year 1 children can typically understand:

Receptive language

  • Follow 2-3 step instructions in a sequence

  • Understand more basic concepts such as same & different (size & function); quantity (few, most, pair) and time.

  • Use accurate grammar accurately.

  • Understand all basic wh- questions such as what, why, when, where.

  • Use higher level language such as jokes, tease, sarcasm, argument, explanations, predictions.

In year 1, children can say (expressive or language):


  • Say approximately 2600 words.

  • Answer more complex yes/no questions.

  • Use complete sentences to express themselves.

  • Ask and answer all basic wh- questions.

  • Use most parts of speech and grammar accurately.

  • Sort objects into categories.

  • Use regular and irregular past tense verbs.

  • Use conjunctions such as "because, then, before, if…"

  • Initiate conversation, sustain topic and take turns.

Image from SPA (2016).

Speak to Access 2 Speech Pathology for guidance and what to do to improve your child's language ability on email: or phone 0400836254 for an appointment.


Speech Pathology Australia (2016). Communication Milestones, retrieved from Communication Milestones (

Raising Children Network (2022). Language Delay, retrieved from Language delay in children | Raising Children Network

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