Is my Child Ready for School?

by Sharon Weisz
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Now that we are getting into the ‘Back-to-School’ mindset, we as parents may be wondering how our children are developing in terms of their speech and language skills. Naturally, we are all eager to know how they will fare in the big sea of children in the school environment.

Below is a checklist to see if your child is meeting his/her speech and language milestones.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, ask your pediatrician for a referral for a hearing test. You may then self-refer to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for a complete assessment.


Speech and Language Milestones

12 months

  • say first words
  • Look to where you are pointing
  • Combine sounds (ex.abada)
  • Follow one-step directions

18 Months  

  • Use at least 20 words
  • Imitate new words and gestures
  • Point to body parts
  • Point to pictures in books when asked
  • Understand ‘in/out’, ‘on/off’
  • Can pretend play with toys (ex. give teddy a drink)
  • Enjoy being read to
  • Make at least 4 different sounds (p,b,m,n,d,h,w)

2 Years

  • Say at least 100-150 words
  • Say the sounds: P, B, M, N, H, W
  • Speech is clear 50-60% of the time
  • Combine words in to 2-word phrases
  • Follow 2-step directions

3 Years

  • Use 5-8 word sentences
  • Say the sounds: T, D, K, G, F, Y
  • Tell simple stories
  • Speech is clear over 75% of the time
  • Understand simple questions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions

4 Years

  • Speech is 100% clear
  • Say most sounds, but may still have trouble with: R, S, L, SH, CH, J, TH, V
  • Use adult-like grammar
  • Can make simple rhymes (cat-hat)
  • Follow 3-step directions

5 Years 

  • Speak in long, complete sentences
  • Ask ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘how come’
  • Tell and retell detailed stories
  • Understand long verbal directions

If your child is under the age of 5, he may qualify for a limited amount of public services.  Once he becomes school-age, he may qualify for limited services through the school system.

Many families also seek help from a private Speech-Language Pathologist while their child is on the waitlist for such services as the wait times range from 4-12 months long. A private SLP may collaborate with the SLP in the public sector to ensure consistency of therapy goals. Although private therapy is not covered by OHIP, it may be partially covered under extended health care plans.

Whatever route you decide upon, keep in mind that the critical period for language development is under the age of 5 and particularly under the age of 3. In other words, early intervention is the key.



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