Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Speech Development 12-18 Months: When to Seek Extra Help

“No two children develop alike.” “Don’t compare your child to someone else’s child.”

Don’t get me wrong, this advice has its place. However, there are always two sides to every coin. A range exists for when children are most ready and able to learn certain skills, and if we aren’t seeing those skills there might be underlying medical or physical concerns.

What’s the risk?

A child just might catch up with their peers as time goes on, but research has shown that oftentimes communication delays early on that go untreated lead to school and learning difficulties in the future.

What is normal?

Intermountain Healthcare shares that a child between 13 and 18 months typically learns to

  • Identify one body part
  • Follow simple commands
  • Understand the meaning of many nouns (person, place, or thing)
  • Communicate with true words and gestures
  • Watch others to see if they understand
  • Say 5-20 words

It is also typical for a child this age to:

  • Show some echolalia (repeating a word or phrase over and over)
  • Speak a lot of jargon with emotional content

What can I do?

Many children might appear delayed because they haven’t been given the opportunity to practice certain skills or haven’t had those abilities modeled for them. It’s true that some toddlers will need speech therapy, but others might just need a parent to add more language-building opportunities into the daily routine. As you share more communicative moments with your child each day, you might be surprised by the progress you see!

Activities to encourage your child’s speech development:

  • As often as you remember, talk about what you and your child are seeing and doing.
  • Accompany words with gestures (e.g. clap “hooray” and wave “bye-bye”)
  • Respond to the toddler’s babbling, gibberish, gestures, and sounds, and give him/her the words for what he/she maybe be trying to say
  • Sing favorite songs frequently and encourage the toddler to join in
  • See more activities for your child’s age here

Here are some warning signs to be aware of for an 18-month-old child:

  • Not pointing to show things to others
  • Not copying others
  • Not gaining new words
  • Using less than 6 words

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age. You can also contact Help Me Grow Utah to ask questions and be connected to resources that fit your child’s specific needs. Call Help Me Grow at 801-691-5322.

With the right help, children can often overcome a delay and experience no lasting problems. And if a child isn’t able to completely get back on track for his age, the right services can still help him express himself more easily and have more success in future relationships.

Milestones for other ages can be found here.

To read more about communication skills and tips, see this blog post.



  1. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Speech Language Development, by Laura Mize, Teach Me To Talk
  2. Talk to Me, Baby!, Second Edition, by Betty S. Bardige, Brookes Publishing
  3. Language Development In Children

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