Health Team

Parents Should Track Child's Speech Development

Posted October 10, 2007

— Some children speak in a way only their parents understand. That can really become a problem when they begin school.

There are many possible causes of a child's speech delay. It could be rooted in a hearing problem, chronic ear infections or a birth defect that affects a child’s ability to make sounds.

For many kids, their speech just doesn't develop as quickly and they might need professional help to catch up.

WakeMed Speech Language Pathologist Crystal Downs has worked with Jonathan Feeley, 6, over the past year. His parents, Angela and Jeff Feeley, said they weren't sure he had a speech problem until Jonathan’s assessment for kindergarten.

“There were some things we couldn't understand. He would talk so fast that we didn't even know what he said," Angela Feeley said.

“He wasn't slowing down [and] enunciating,” Jeff Feeley said.

Downs said pediatricians often help parents track their child's speech development.

“Usually by the first year, by the time the child turns one, you should expect to hear some words being imitated,” she said.

At a year and a half, a child's vocabulary should develop quickly. By age 2, they should use two word phrases. By age 3, three word phrases. By 4, they should be talking more clearly and in full sentences.

Regular therapy for Jonathan, reinforced with drills at home, has made a world of difference in his self-esteem and school work, Downs said.

“Once his speech kind of took off, everything else came together for him,” Angela Feeley said.


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  • yeah Oct 12, 2007

    This article fails to mention autism. Speech delay is a classic symptom, especially speech regression. According to an American Academy of Family Physicians website: "Language regression is an ominous sign and signals autism in about 90 percent of toddlers."

  • Cold Hard Truth Oct 11, 2007

    My oldest daughter couldn't even talk at 3 yrs old then her pedetrician had her tested for all kinds of things and found out she had a cleft palette and she needed surgery to help her be able to talk. She got speech therapy at home until she was old enough for preschool then got it through the school system until she was in 5th grade and then they said her speech was fine so I thank God for her Dr. & Speech therapists.

  • poohperson2000 Oct 11, 2007


    It depends on your insurance, but Wake Med has an outpatient office in Cary near Western Wake that my son went to. They are great to work with. I also recommend having them tested with Wake County Public schools. You may be eligible to get free therapy from them, and if it is still a problem when it is time to go to school their IEP (indvidualized education program) will follow them. Make sure you read all you can from Wake County Public Schools and that you understand the things your child in entitled to. The are considered to have a disablilty and their services are mandates of the law, not optional.

  • readyforgodswilltobedone Oct 11, 2007

    Can you recommend any good speech therapist. I have twins who are 2/1/2 years old and was evaluated has a mild speech delay and I am trying to find someone now. I am so happy that I was proactive enough to say to my MD and others that I know that they have something going on with their speech. Some say that they have this mild delay due to having their twin language but for the most part I can undestand them but they are clear. They haven't had alot of ear infections,but still have this. They also were born at 27 weeks, so that could be the delay issue as well. Thanks.
    please email me at with some speech therapist info.

  • lakesidepreschool Oct 11, 2007

    My oldest son started speech through our school system (Chatham) when he was 3. Today he is 9 and still going to speech. My youngest son started speech at the age of 3 as well. Today at age 6 he still continues to go. I want to give a big congrats to our speech therapist, Leah Spencer, North Chatham School. She was named Special Education Teacher of the Year in Chatham County. We could kiss the ground she walks on!!! Julie Hall, the other speech thereapist is just as awesome!
    Thank you to all of the Speech Therapist who help our children!!

  • aquamama Oct 11, 2007

    One of mine didn't speak until she was 2 1/2. Another was dropping consonants at the end of words. That particular symptom usually signifies hearing loss. Not only did he have hearing loss, but his chronic ear infections (which caused the hearing loss) were caused by a food allergy. Once we found the cause, we could address the speech issue. I agree that this is VERY important. It is very fortunate that we had insurance, but our school system at the time wouldn't accept him for speech therapy because his speech wasn't bad enough (they wanted 2 standard deviations below normal- his was 1.5). He would have fallen through the cracks if our insurance hadn't been so good. But I had to demand that something be done about it. A lot of people accept what medical professionals (and insurance companies) say at face value. I cannot stress this enough: you know your child best. Demand action if you feel something is wrong with your kid.

  • ncloree Oct 10, 2007

    I totally agree poohperson2000. I was clued in to a problem with my 3 year old when not only could others not understand her, but more importantly, I couldn't understand her. Less than a year later of finally getting speech services, she is making great progress and has more confidence in her ability to communicate with others.

  • poohperson2000 Oct 10, 2007

    Amen to this. My son started speech therapy at 3 and at 7 he is still working on in. We have been praised for being so proactive, but the truth is, without decent insurance many people feel they have no alternative. Please know that Wake County Public Schools offers pre school speech therapy. You have to take them to be tested for speech delays with the school, have a hearing test done, and cut through the red tape, but it is worth it if you have no other alternative.