Ask a Children's Hospital Expert

Q: My child is 3, and I’m worried that he isn’t talking very much. When he does speak, it’s hard to make out what he is saying. What should I do?

A: While all children don’t reach speech and language milestones at exactly the same time, there are guidelines that can helpful in determining if their communication skills are developing appropriately. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships. If you are concerned, check with a Speech-Language Pathologist if your child has not met these milestones:


By age 2 years, your child cannot:

∙       identify basic body parts and clothing

∙       follow 2-step directions

∙       use two-word phrases frequently

∙       use 50 different words

By age 3 years, your child cannot:

∙       understand common action words

∙       answer yes/no questions correctly

∙       use simple sentences

∙       be understood by familiar listeners

By age 4 years, your child cannot:

∙       recognize actions in pictures

∙       name a variety of pictured objects

∙       combine 4+ words in spontaneous speech

∙       be understood by familiar and/or unfamiliar listeners

By age 5 years, your child cannot:

∙       answer questions logically

∙       speak clearly

– Maria Villacis, MS, CCC-SLP

Maria is a speech-language pathologist at Children’s Hospital Oakland’s Walnut Creek Hearing & Speech Center.

The Hearing & Speech Center is offering free speech and language screenings:

  • March 7 –  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • April 11 –  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • May 16 –  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Call 925-979-3440 to schedule a screening with a Children’s Hospital speech-language pathologist.