We start to communicate from the moment we are born. Babies’ first cries tell their carers that they need food, warmth, and comfort. As they get older, their communication becomes more sophisticated. They make eye contact, smile when they see a favourite person, experiment with new sounds, laugh, and point.

We know quite a bit about how communication usually develops in children. Linguists and speech pathologists have been able to use this information to make ‘milestones’ – key skills that develop at predictable times in a child’s life. Milestones generally fall into the categories of:

  • Speech (the sounds the child can make – consonants and vowels)
  • Language (knowing what words mean, being able to make sentences, remember instructions and information, tell stories)
  • Voice (the way the voice sounds)
  • Social skills (the ability to play and talk to others)


Some important early milestones to look out for are:

  • Babbling between 4 – 7 months of age


By around first birthday:

  • Gesturing – reaching, pointing, pushing things away
  • Responding to name by turning their head
  • Interested in other people – waving, making eye contact, and looking for attention
  • Saying first words


By about 18 months

  • Clapping in excitement, shaking head in refusal, following a simple instruction (‘give’ or ‘come here’)


By 2 years:

  • Says about 50 words, making two-word sentences
  • Speech is about 50% in intelligible to a stranger
  • Nods yes, blows kisses, and talks instead of gestures where possibl
  • Says p, b, m, h, and w correctly


By 3 years:

  • Following two-step commands and making three to four word sentences
  • Speech 75% intelligible
  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n correctly


Sometimes children have not reached their expected milestones, or seem to be reaching them at a later age than expected. They may have unusual communication patterns, such as repeating the same sounds over and over (stuttering) or losing their voice, or sounding hoarse and breathy. They may have difficulties playing with their peers or have early learning difficulties.


Evidence shows early intervention is best, NOT ‘wait and see’. If there are concerns about a child’s communication:

  • Arrange a hearing exam – young children are prone to ear infections, hearing loss can impact speech and language developmentContact a speech pathologist to discuss your concerns


    Katina Swan, ORS, Perth, WA

Katina Swan

Learning and Development Manager – Speech Pathology Services

BSpchPath, CPSP

Katina is a skilled speech pathologist, researcher and mentor. She has practiced clinically for more than a decade across NSW, the ACT, QLD and WA. She is currently completing a PhD focussed on analysis of Videofluoroscopic Swallow Studies. She brings a diverse range of experience from her work with a variety of caseloads, from infants to aged care, rehabilitation to palliation, mental health and complex care needs. She has published and presented research in scientific journals and at national and international conferences on the topics of psychometrics, dysphagia, dementia, food services and aphasia. Katina has a passion for excellence and practice that is informed by evidence. She has mentored numerous speech pathologists and enjoys supporting the development of each clinician’s skills to the very highest standard. Her vision for ORS Speech Pathology Learning and Development is bridging the gap between the lab and the frontline and ensuring every clinician can use the best research to help their clients and helping clinicians to grow their scientific skills and contribute to the evidence base.
Current Memberships include Speech Pathology Australia and the Laryngology Society of Australiasia.