8 Signs Your Toddler May Need Speech Therapy

When it comes to toddlers and their development, you may find yourself anxious. Yet, their stumbling through brand-new actions like crawling and speaking is perfectly normal. However, there are some signs that may warrant a meeting with a speech therapist.

When it comes to noticing any abnormal speech patterns or behaviors from your toddler, speaking with a speech therapist as soon as possible is always best. No need to worry, speech therapists are able to help your toddler overcome any speech issues.

While we want to avoid stressing over every falter, there are specific actions to be aware of. From stutters to prolonged silence, here are eight signs that your toddler may need speech therapy.

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Watching For Signs in Your Toddler

Be assured that whatever issue you may find with your toddler’s speech, a speech therapist will be able to resolve it. Also known as speech-language pathologists, these professionals will work with both children and adults to fix any speech disorders or issues.

While speech therapists are fully capable of working with your child to improve their speech, the best outcome is to notice any issue and work to end it before it gets worse. Toddlers have the ability to overcome any developmental issues with time and practice quickly. 

That’s why it’s best to take them to a professional speech therapist as soon as you notice any warning signs in order to prevent these speech problems to extend into their older years. 

Your toddler’s age and how much progress they’ve made speaking is also a major factor to consider. Created by the American Speech Language Hearing Association, here’s a comprehensive guide to what your toddler’s speech should be like according to their exact age. Now, these are the warning signs you need to keep an eye out for.

Your Child is Stuttering

This is one of the most common speech issues that require the help of a speech therapist. Although toddlers who haven’t reached fluency can seem as though they’re stuttering, it will happen repeatedly and be noticeable as a stutter.

Stuttering can occur at around the age of two or three years old. This can be seen as repeating the same initial sound of different words, such as “t-t-t-toy”. However, they can also be repeating syllables or the entire word. If it seems that they’re being forced to repeat their speech, then stuttering may be the issue. 

Another characteristic is if they have a strained facial expression or seem uncomfortable when speaking. If this stuttering continues for longer than a month, then it will be time to meet with a speech therapist.

Your Toddler Doesn’t Babble

Toddlers are expected to begin babbling anywhere from four to six months old. If your child isn’t babbling and they’re over seven months old, then this may be an issue worth speaking to a speech professional about.

Before any diagnosis can be made, a proper hearing test will be administered to assure that your child’s hearing is not a factor in any speech delays. If that’s not the case, you and your child’s speech therapist can review the different speech exercises that can be done at home to ensure your toddler is on the right track in their speech development.

Your Child Isn’t Speaking with Others

Many toddlers can be very shy and avoid talking with strangers. However, if you find that your child talks normally at home but remains silent at school or social gatherings they may be having trouble with selective mutism. While this condition is not a speech issue but rather an anxiety problem, a speech therapist can still offer help.

Selective mutism can happen anywhere between the ages of two and four years old, yet sometimes it isn’t discovered until a child enters school. In these situations, the child isn’t forcefully choosing not to speak but instead feels so anxious that they are unable to.

Speech therapy can help your toddler gain confidence when speaking and allow them to feel more comfortable talking in social settings. Even if no speech issue is involved, practicing conversation can ease the anxiety that is preventing them from doing so.

Your Child has a Lisp

Speaking with a lisp is very common in toddlers as they learn to talk. However, as they grow older and their pronunciation advances yet the lisp remains, there can be an issue at hand. 

Most cases of lisps can be fully treated by a speech therapist once a proper diagnosis has been made. If no treatment is done for lisping, it can persist into older age such as adolescence or even older. Seeking treatment for a lisp as soon as possible can ensure that it is swiftly removed from their speech.

Your Child Has Trouble Saying Certain Sounds

Proper articulation is an obstacle many toddlers learn to achieve over time. Yet, some kids can have trouble articulating specific sounds. Their words when speaking may lack the needed vowels or consonants to be clearly pronounced.

Listen closely to your toddler when they speak and see how many sounds they use to articulate. Are they struggling with certain sounds or letters? These are issues that can be discussed with a speech therapist to prevent any bumps in their linguistic development.

Your Child’s Voice Is Irregular

If you notice a recurring shift in your child’s speaking voice, such as volume or tone, they may have a speech problem needing assistance. A shifted tone due to a cold is common, however, if their voice shifts for longer than two weeks their vocal cords may be struggling to work properly. 

This condition is called chronic dysphonia and can have multiple causes but the treatment is most often speech therapy. An otolaryngologist or a speech pathologist will be able to determine properly if chronic dysphonia is the case for your toddler.

Your Child’s Speech Is Difficult To Understand

After reaching the age of two, your child should be able to speak with strangers understanding at least 50% of their speech. This percentage should increase to 75% when they reach the age of three years old.

If this is not the case and strangers are unable to understand the majority of their words then a speech therapist may be needed. Speech that is difficult to understand can be caused by various speech disorders which can be specified and diagnosed during speech therapy.

Your Child has a Limited Vocabulary

Toddlers should be able to speak a certain amount of words as they develop. For example, when a child is nearly a year and a half old they should know and say about twenty different words. As they reach two years old, their vocabulary should be over fifty words and increase by ten words every week.

If you notice that your child isn’t expanding their vocabulary as they should at their age, speech therapy will be required to help them along in their communication.

How Speech Therapy Works

Speech therapy can help both toddlers who struggle with speaking and those who have trouble understanding speech. From pronunciation and social skills to oral motor skills like swallowing, speech therapy is able to treat those struggling with communication.

Speech therapy will first begin with an initial assessment to identify the issues your toddler may have. The speech therapist will then create a plan for your child’s treatment and let you know what you can do at home to help your child practice speaking. 

Some speech exercises that are used in therapy include:

  • Phonogram Flash Cards: A therapist will show a flashcard with a word on it and your child will be asked to say the word until they can master fluency.
  • Word Lists: Your toddler will read words listed before them and learn how to read and speak clearly.
  • Arm or Finger Tapping: Your child will read a word while tapping a steady beat on their arm or finger. This can help those with stuttering issues and more.

What Issues Does Speech Therapy Treat?

The range of issues that speech therapy can treat is more extensive than you imagine. From autism, and speaking anxiety, to stutters, a speech therapist is qualified to treat the following disorders and more:

  • Apraxia
  • Autism
  • Articulation Disorders
  • Cleft Palate
  • Developmental Delays
  • Dyslexia (Orton Gillingham Therapy)
  • Early Language Delays
  • Executive Functioning (Attention, Organization)
  • Expressive and Receptive Language Disorders
  • Fluency Disorders
  • Selective Mutism
  • Swallowing Disorders


If you’re worried that your toddler may need speech therapy, then making an initial appointment may help you better understand if your child needs treatment or not. Does your toddler exhibit any of the eight warning signs previously discussed? If so, then treating it as early as possible can help prevent any further speech issues. 

Whether your toddler is showing signs of selective mutism or they are unable to expand their vocabulary, there are a variety of symptoms that should be examined early on so treatment can be undergone smoothly and swiftly. 

While mumbles, shyness, and stammering happen often for toddlers, these warning signs can be indicators of speech disorders that need speech therapy treatment.

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