Speech and Language Milestones

With annual review season in full swing, I have been referencing my speech and language milestones pretty frequently! It occurred to me that this is useful information that just about anyone who comes in contact with children can use. There are several great websites with detailed information, but my favorite (and probably the most reliable) is the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Since I work mainly with preschoolers, I am going to sum up skills for this age group.

Speech and language skills can be divided into a few major categories. Receptive language skills are those skills dealing with understanding and comprehension of speech and language, while expressive language skills regard the way a child speaks. Skills can also be analyzed in a number of other areas including voice, pragmatics (social skills), fluency, and articulation. These are by no means all of the areas treated by SLPs, but tend to be the main focus for preschool children.

The chart below is from the ASHA website listed above. It summarizes receptive and expressive language skills children should demonstrate by age 5.

Hearing and Understanding Talking

  • Understands words for order, like first, next, and last.
  • Understands words for time, like yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
  • Follows longer directions, like “Put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, and then pick out a book.”
  • Follows classroom directions, like “Draw a circle on your paper around something you eat.”
  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school.

  • Says all speech sounds in words. May make mistakes on sounds that are harder to say, like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th.
  • Responds to “What did you say?”
  • Talks without repeating sounds or words most of the time.
  • Names letters and numbers.
  • Uses sentences that have more than 1 action word, like jump, play, and get. May make some mistakes, like “Zach got 2 video games, but I got one.”
  • Tells a short story.
  • Keeps a conversation going.
  • Talks in different ways depending on the listener and place. May use short sentences with younger children or talk louder outside than inside.

Here is another chart I use all the time. This is useful for speech sound acquisition:


This chart is from www.playwithwithwords365.com , but is known as “Sander norms” in the SLP world. It’s a great and easy to read chart that shows the approximate ages speech sounds begin to emerge and should be mastered by.

One more great resource- Guide to Communication Milestones by Linguisystems.


This is a quick reference for a variety of SLP areas and gives normative information for several different domains. The best part, it is FREE in pdf version here.

As with anything, if you have concerns about a child’s skills, it is best to ask a professional! Hope you enjoy these resources and find them as useful as I do!


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