Language Development Red Flags: Ages 0-36 Months

Have you ever wondered if your child is on track for “typical” language development? The following red flag checklist can help give you a general idea if your child is not following typical patterns of development. It is important to note that some children develop language a few months earlier or later than these general guidelines.

Red Flags for Language Development by 3-4 months:red flags for language development

  1. Child does not react to sudden noises
  2. Child does not turn head to sounds such as a bell or a rattle
  3. Child is not quieted by a caregivers voice
  4. Child does not seem to look at faces or objects- the baby should track items or people in her line of vision
  5. The baby seems unusually quiet, no cooing
  6. The baby as not developed “different” cries to signify different needs i.e. hungry, tired, distress, etc.
  7. The child has not developed a smile response to familiar caregiver
  8. The child does not use her voice to attract attention

Red Flags for Language Development by 14 months:

  1. Child does not follow simple directions such as, “give” or “come”
  2. Child does not seem to understand simple gestures of “hi” or “bye”
  3. Child does not have interest in simple books and simple pictures
  4. Baby does not seem to communicate other than crying
  5. Baby does not use simple gestures such as waving for bye-bye or hi, pointing, reaching, showing
  6. Child does not produce a variety of consonant or vowel sounds and/or does not produce sounds frequently
  7. Child does not use 2 to 8 words spontaneously
  8. Child does not communicate in a variety of ways such as facial expressions, eye gazing, or gestures

Red Flags for Language Development by 28-30 months:

  1. Child shows inconsistent response to words or directions
  2. Child needs repetition
  3. Chid gives inappropriate responses to simple ‘wh’ questions such as who is this? What is this?
  4. Child is not interested in simple stories
  5. Child seems to easily forget familiar routines
  6. Child becomes easily frustrated during communication exchanges
  7. Child mostly relies on yelling, grunting, or incoherent utterances for communication
  8. Words do not seem like adult words or may be part words i.e. “Da” for dog
  9. The child uses the same pseudo word or short syllable to represent many different things i.e. “ba” for boy, ball and baby
  10. Child is unable to name most familiar items
  11. Child has no clear “yes” or “no” response
  12. Child has less than 200 words and lacks steady vocabulary
  13. Child may have “lost” some speech

Red Flags for Language Development by 36 months:

  1. Is unable to follow more complex directions i.e., get your coat then go to the car
  2. Lacks interest in or does not remember simple and familiar stories, songs, nursery rhymes
  3. Does not understand the difference between who, what and where questions
  4. Is overly dependent on parents or siblings for communication
  5. Persists in babbling in place of adult speech “bibi” for baby
  6. Clarity of the child’s speech decreases as the child attempts longer utterances
  7. Is not speaking in sentences of three to four words
  8. Is not beginning to use simple grammar- articles, verb endings, plurals, pronouns
  9. Less than 800 words
  10. Is not easily picking up new vocabulary

If you believe your child meets the criteria of this red flag checklist for their age, please speak with a professional speech and language pathologist who can thoroughly evaluate their language development. As mentioned previously, children may develop a few months earlier or later than the time frames outlined by this checklist.

Click here to download our speech and language milestone infographic!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today! 

3 replies
  1. Mrs khan
    Mrs khan says:

    Hi Sydney.
    My 4 year old autistic son has just started speaking sentences like I want this I want that or give me this his words are clear and he speak out almost all animal names imitate cartoons can say 1 to 20 numbers colors shapes play words can speak A to Z alphabets and can read chart of phonics n recognize alphabets and related characters yet I believe he needs to talk more like he can’t say Yes or No to the poepl on the time of sheer disliking. He attended ST for about a year but I bieve it didn’t work as in 1 hour you can’t piur so much in child. Now he has started going to school ao rhymes and words are keep coming. Kindly tell me how to increase his sentences please so that he looks like a 4 year old child who can play with Brian peers and make a request to anyone about anything.

  2. jano
    jano says:

    Hi sydney,
    Needs help to increase the sentences of my 4 year old autistic son who has just started speaking and speaking all but need more to communicate like he can request and mend and sound n words are clear. He can say u want this and that or give me this can read and recognize all animals A to Z alphabets 1-20 numbers all shapes colors things imitate TV cartoons and imitate us parents. But can’t say No when he dislike something or yes when he want something. And need more sentences to come he regularly attend OT and attended 1 year ST but I wasn’t cinvunces with ST work. Besides he has just started attending school so I can see more n more words n rhymes r coming still need to speak out more and match his peers.

    • LibbyGalin
      LibbyGalin says:

      Thanks for your question! I would start by modeling “no” for your child. If it seems he does not want an object or item you can tell him, “say no” and when he says, “no”, honor his protest and remove the item or stop the activity. You may need to start by presenting items you already know he does not prefer to practice this skill. Secondly, you can work on his requesting skills by withholding objects he needs/wants until he asks for the item. For example, don’t give him the chips or cookie he wants and tell him, “say can I have the cookie?”. After he has requested the item you can give it to him, but it is important to practice this skill before it becomes routine. I would look for opportunities to withhold objects or activities until he asks directly for them. This will increase his requesting abilities.


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