how early is too early for a speech language evaluation

How Young is Too Young for a Speech Language Evaluation?

If you have concerns about your baby’s ability to listen or communicate, it is never too early for her to be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

The first three years of your baby’s life is a critical period for learning language. Rapid growth and change in your baby’s brain makes learning easiest and most efficient during these years. Your baby is listening to you speak, watching you gesture and emote, and learning pre-verbal communication skills that lay the foundation for future speech and language development. Therefore, ensuring that your baby’s development is on-track from the start is very important.

How do I know if my baby needs to be evaluated for a speech or language concern?

  1. Your baby is not meeting speech and language developmental milestones on time:how early is too early for a speech language evaluation

Long before your baby says her first words, she is listening and communicating in a variety of ways:

  • By 3 months, she quiets or smiles when you talk to her and cries differently to express different needs
  • By 6 months, she responds to changes in the tone of your voice, babbles with many different sounds, and vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • By 1 year, she makes gestures (e.g., waves) to communicate, imitates speech sounds, and says one or two words

These skills, along with other speech and language milestones, generally follow a similar sequence of development in typically developing children. And, though there is variation across all children, these milestones are usually expected at particular ages. The predictability of your baby’s language development allows speech-language pathologists to evaluate your baby’s skills long before she starts saying her first words. Looking at milestone charts and comparing them to your baby’s skills will give you hints about whether your baby might be on track or delayed.

  1. Your baby displays one or more of the following “red flags” for communication disorders*:
  • Does not babble by 9 months
  • Does not say first words by 15 months
  • Does not respond to communication appropriately
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Sudden loss of skills or slowing of development
  • Does not show interest in communication

*Adapted from Please see web site for more information.

  1. Your baby has hearing problems or a previously diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder:
  • Hearing Problems: 92% of children with hearing loss are born to hearing parents. The ability to hear is essential to your child’s language development, as decreased linguistic input may negatively impact language. Furthermore, otitis media (middle ear infection) is common in children ages birth to 3. It may be harder for children to hear and understand language if sound is dampened by fluid in the middle ear. Therefore, children with frequent ear infections should have their hearing tested to ensure full access to their linguistic environment.
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorder: Neurodevelopmental disorders are disabilities associated with the functioning of the nervous system and brain. Children with these disorders are at higher risk of having speech and language problems.


What Can I do if I see One of These Red Flags?

If your baby is not meeting developmental milestones, displays any “red flags,” or has hearing difficulties or a neurodevelopmental disorder, you can take action by finding a speech-language pathologist in your area and scheduling an evaluation. Click here more information about how to select a speech-language pathologist, as well as what happens during a speech-language evaluation.