Parent Resources for Speech Therapy in Chicago

Speech/Language Therapy — Focuses on listening skills, language comprehension, verbal expression, speech production, phonological awareness auditory processing. Our Masters-degreed Speech/Language Pathologists treat disorders that impact the processes of communication and/or feeding. Our Speech Pathologists are skilled in treating developmental, sensory and motor-based communication disorders as well as social language impairments.


According to Nancy Kaufman, “Apraxia of speech is a motor-speech programming disorder resulting in difficulty executing and/or coordinating (sequencing) the oral-motor movements necessary to produce and combine speech sounds (phonemes) to form syllables, words, phrases and sentences on voluntary (rather than only reflexive) control. Many children are able to hear words, and are able to understand what they mean, but they can’t change what they hear into the fine-motor skill of combining consonants and vowels to form words. This difficulty combining consonants and vowels into words upon direct imitation is called apraxia of speech


Oral motor deficits are when a child has weakness and/or instability with his or her oral musculature (jaw, lips, tongue, etc). You may notice deficits in blowing, drinking from a straw and licking. Other possible characteristics are drooling, consistent open mouth posture, low tone and overstuffing when eating.

What are the indications that my toddler needs a speech therapist?

(according to Patricia McAleer-Hamaguchi, pediatric speech-language pathologist)


Toddlers often have trouble with pronunciation and difficulties putting sentences together. A child between the ages of 18 months and 3 years will generally mispronounce many words. It’s perfectly normal to have to play a guessing game to figure out what your child is saying, and at times you may have absolutely no clue what she’s getting at. That’s okay!

  Many toddlers substitute an “f” or “d” sound for “th” (“I’m taking a baf”) or a “w” sound for an “l” or “r” (“The wion wawed” = “The lion roared”). Consonant blends, where two consonants are right next to each other, are typically difficult (“Soppit!” for “Stop it”), and toddlers often mix up multi-syllabic words or simply reduce them to shorter words (“Gimme dat amal” = “Give me that animal”). All of these mispronunciations are common even up until age 6. What you want to watch for is that your toddler’s speech is improving over time — by age 3, most of what your child says should be pretty understandable.  

If the problem is not pronunciation but rather that your child isn’t talking or is talking very little, you should act a little more quickly. You should have her evaluated at 20 to 24 months if she’s doing any one of the following:

– Doesn’t react normally or consistently to sounds. (She may be overly sensitive to sounds such as vacuums or hair dryers yet seem indifferent at other times when people call her name.)

–  Mispronounces vowels, saying “coo” instead of “cow.”

– Talks using mostly vowels, omitting whole consonants, saying “a” for “cat.”

– Uses one catch-all sound or syllable to name most things (“duh” or “duh-duh” is a popular one).

– Uses a word once and then doesn’t use it again frequently.

-Doesn’t point to common objects in books. (When you say “Show me the kitty cat!” instead flips the page or simply repeats “cat!” but doesn’t actually point to it.)

– Doesn’t seem frustrated when you don’t know what she wants. (She may simply try to get the object herself or just give up very easily.)

– Doesn’t seem to be progressing much from month to month.

–  Answers a question by repeating part of your question. (If you say, “Do you want milk?” responds by saying “Milk!” instead of a head nod or “yes” response — this is called echolalia, and may be an early sign of autism.)

– Doesn’t learn “bye-bye” or react to games like peek-a-boo.

–  Still says single words only, and not sentences.

Contact KAREN GEORGE at (312) 399-0370 to set up your free screening..



Language Development Chart

Age of Child Typical Language Development
6 Months Vocalization with intonationResponds to his name

Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes

Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones

12 Months Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given

Practices inflection

Is aware of the social value of speech

18 Months Has vocabulary of approximately 5-20 wordsVocabulary made up chiefly of nouns

Some echolalia (repeating a word or phrase over and over)

Much jargon with emotional content

Is able to follow simple commands

24 Months Can name a number of objects common to his surroundingsIs able to use at least two prepositions, usually chosen from the following: in, on, under

Combines words into a short sentence-largely noun-verb combinations (mean) length of sentences is given as 1.2 words

Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words

Rhythm and fluency often poor

Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled

Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused

My and mine are beginning to emerge

Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”

36 Months Use pronouns I, you, me correctlyIs using some plurals and past tenses

Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under

Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name

Handles three word sentences easily

Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words

About 90% of what child says should be intelligible

Verbs begin to predominate

Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities

Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason

Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”

Should be able to give his sex, name, age

Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected

48 Months Knows names of familiar animalsCan use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands

Names common objects in picture books or magazines

Knows one or more colors

Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly

Can usually repeat words of four syllables

Demonstrates understanding of over and under

Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established

Often indulges in make-believe

Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities

Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented

Readily follows simple commands even thought the stimulus objects are not in sight

Much repetition of words, phrases, syllables, and even sounds

60 Months Can use many descriptive words spontaneously-both adjectives and adverbsKnows common opposites: big-little, hard-soft, heave-light, etc

Has number concepts of 4 or more

Can count to ten

Speech should be completely intelligible, in spite of articulation problems

Should have all vowels and the consonants, m,p,b,h,w,k,g,t,d,n,ng,y (yellow)

Should be able to repeat sentences as long as nine words

Should be able to define common objects in terms of use (hat, shoe, chair)

Should be able to follow three commands given without interruptions

Should know his age

Should have simple time concepts: morning, afternoon, night, day, later, after, while

Tomorrow, yesterday, today

Should be using fairly long sentences and should use some compound and some complex sentences

Speech on the whole should be grammatically correct






General Developmental Sequence Toddler through Preschool

This page presents typical activities and achievements for children from two to five years of age. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range. 

This information is presented to help parents understand what to expect from their child. Any questions you may have about your child’s development should be shared with his doctor or teacher.
There are many programs available touting to raise IQ and speed up child development in general. Research shows that the key to healthy child development is the amount of time children spend time with their parents having fun and learning at the same time. Electronic input for children of this age should be limited to no more than 2 hours per day (that includes “educational” programs). Here are some suggestions: Activities for Toddlers & Parents. Reading to children develops language skill and pre-reading skills. You will find these resources on reading to children to help you make the most of this special time. Here is a great preschool book list.
Children at this stage also need lots of playtime. This includes playing alone, with peers and with their parents. Please see our articles on “Play the Work of a Child.” Here are suggestions for Toys & Games for this crowd. Listening to music and playing with musical toys is also great. Finally, get our kids playing outside as much as possible. Just a couple of well chosen outdoor play items such as these Outdoor Fun can lead to hours of fun, exploration and physical development.

Physical Development Walks well, goes up and down steps alone, runs, seats self on chair, becoming independent in toileting, uses spoon and fork, imitates circular stroke, turns pages singly, kicks ball, attempts to dress self, builds tower of six cubes.

Emotional Development Very Self-centered, just beginning a sense of personal identity and belongings, possessive, often negative, often frustrated, no ability to choose between alternatives, enjoys physical affection, resistive to change, becoming independent, more responsive to humor and distraction than discipline or reason. Age 2 Social Development Solitary play, dependent on adult guidance, plays with dolls, refers to self by name, socially very immature, little concept of others as “people.” May respond to simple direction.

Intellectual Development Says words, phrases and simple sentences, 272 words, understands simple directions, identifies simple pictures, likes to look at books, short attention span, avoids simple hazards, can do simple form board.
Physical Development Runs well, marches, stands on one foot briefly, rides tricycle, imitates cross, feeds self well, puts on shoes and stockings, unbuttons and buttons, build tower of 10 cubes. Pours from pitcher. 

Emotional Development Likes to conform, easy going attitude, not so resistive to change, more secure, greater sense of personal identity, beginning to be adventuresome, enjoys music. Age 3 Social Development Parallel play, enjoys being by others, takes turns, knows if he is a boy or girl, enjoys brief group activities requiring no skill, likes to “help” in small ways–responds to verbal guidance.

Intellectual Development Says short sentences, 896 words, great growth in communication, tells simple stories, uses words as tools of thought, wants to understand environment, answers questions, imaginative, may recite few nursery rhymes
Physical Development Skips on one foot, draws “Man”, cuts with scissors (not well), can wash and dry face, dress self except ties, standing broad jump, throws ball overhand, high motor drive.

Emotional Development Seems sure of himself, out-of bounds behavior, often negative, may be defiant, seems to be testing himself out, needs controlled freedom. Age 4 Age 4 Social Development Cooperative play, enjoys other children’s company, highly social, may play loosely organized group games – tag, duck-duck-goose, talkative, versatile.

Intellectual Development Uses complete sentences, 1540 words, asks endless questions, learning to generalize, highly imaginative, dramatic, can draw recognizable simple objects.
Physical Development Hops and skips, dresses without help, good balance and smoother muscle action, skates, rides wagon and scooter, prints simple letters, handedness established, ties shoes, girls small muscle development about 1 year ahead of boys.

Emotional Development Self-assured, stable, well-adjusted, home-centered, likes to associate with mother, capable, of some self-criticism, enjoys responsibility. Likes to follow the rules. Age 5 Social Development Highly cooperative play, has special “friends”, highly organized, enjoys simple table games requiring turns and observing rules, “school”, feels pride clothes and accomplishments, eager to carry out some responsibility.

Intellectual Development 2,072 words, tells long tales, carries out direction well, reads own name, counts to 10, asks meaning of words, knows colors, beginning to know difference between fact and fiction-lying, interested in environment, city, stores, etc.




Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development

Birth to 2 Years

Encourage your baby to make vowel-like and consonant-vowel sounds such as “ma,” “da,” and “ba.”

Reinforce attempts by maintaining eye contact, responding with speech, and imitating vocalizations using different patterns and emphasis. For example, raise the pitch of your voice to indicate a question.

Imitate your baby’s laughter and facial expressions.

Teach your baby to imitate your actions, including clapping you hands, throwing kisses, and playing finger games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and the itsy-bitsy-spider.

Talk as you bathe, feed, and dress your baby. Talk about what you are doing, where you are going, what you will do when you arrive, and who and what you will see.

Identify colors.

Count items.

Use gestures such as waving goodbye to help convey meaning.

Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning: “The doggie says woof-woof.”

Acknowledge the attempt to communicate.

Expand on single words your baby uses: “Here is Mama. Mama loves you. Where is baby? Here is baby.”

Read to your child. Sometimes “reading” is simply describing the pictures in a book without following the written words. Choose books that are sturdy and have large colorful pictures that are not too detailed. Ask your child, “What’s this?” and encourage naming and pointing to familiar objects in the book.



2 to 4 Years

Use good speech that is clear and simple for your child to model.

Repeat what your child says indicating that you understand. Build and expand on what was said. “Want juice? I have juice. I have apple juice. Do you want apple juice?”

Use baby talk only if needed to convey the message and when accompanied by the adult word. “It is time for din-din. We will have dinner now.”

Make a scrapbook of favorite or familiar things by cutting out pictures. Group them into categories, such as things to ride on, things to eat, things for dessert, fruits, things to play with. Create silly pictures by mixing and matching pictures. Glue a picture of a dog behind the wheel of a car. Talk about what is wrong with the picture and ways to “fix” it. Count items pictured in the book.

Help your child understand and ask questions. Play the yes-no game. Ask questions such as “Are you a boy?” “Are you Marty?” “Can a pig fly?” Encourage your child to make up questions and try to fool you.

Ask questions that require a choice. “Do you want an apple or an orange?” “Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?”

Expand vocabulary. Name body parts, and identify what you do with them. “This is my nose. I can smell flowers, brownies, popcorn, and soap.”

Sing simple songs and recite nursery rhymes to show the rhythm and pattern of speech.

Place familiar objects in a container. Have your child remove the object and tell you what it is called and how to use it. “This is my ball. I bounce it. I play with it.”

Use photographs of familiar people and places, and retell what happened or make up a new story.


4 to 6 Years

When your child starts a conversation, give your full attention whenever possible.

Make sure that you have your child’s attention before you speak.

Acknowledge, encourage, and praise all attempts to speak. Show that you understand the word or phrase by fulfilling the request, if appropriate.

Pause after speaking. This gives your child a chance to continue the conversation.

Continue to build vocabulary. Introduce a new word and offer its definition, or use it in a context that is easily understood. This may be done in an exaggerated, humorous manner. “I think I will drive the vehicle to the store. I am too tired to walk.”

Talk about spatial relationships (first, middle, and last; right and left) and opposites (up and down; on and off).

Offer a description or clues, and have your child identify what you are describing: “We use it to sweep the floor” (a broom). “It is cold, sweet, and good for dessert. I like strawberry” (ice cream).

Work on forming and explaining categories. Identify the thing that does not belong in a group of similar objects: “A shoe does not belong with an apple and an orange because you can’t eat it; it is not round; it is not a fruit.”

Help your child follow two- and three-step directions: “Go to your room, and bring me your book.”

Encourage your child to give directions. Follow his or her directions as he or she explains how to build a tower of blocks.

Play games with your child such as “house.” Exchange roles in the family, with your pretending to be the child. Talk about the different rooms and furnishings in the house.

The television also can serve as a valuable tool. Talk about what the child is watching. Have him or her guess what might happen next. Talk about the characters. Are they happy or sad? Ask your child to tell you what has happened in the story. Act out a scene together, and make up a different ending.

Take advantage of daily activities. For example, while in the kitchen, encourage your child to name the utensils needed. Discuss the foods on the menu, their color, texture, and taste. Where does the food come from? Which foods do you like? Which do you dislike? Who will clean up? Emphasize the use of prepositions by asking him or her to put the napkin on the table, in your lap, or under the spoon. Identify who the napkin belongs to: “It is my napkin.” “It is Daddy’s.” “It is John’s.”

Speech and Language DevelopmentIN INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN

Copyright © 1998 Caroline Bowen

This page contains an article about speech and language development. Cite it as:Bowen, C. (1998). Speech and language development in infants and young children. Retrieved on (date) from

The first three years

By 12 months (or so!) most children have one or two words that they say with meaning and can comply with simple requests (e.g., ‘Can I have your cup?’) or commands (e.g., “Don’t touch!”) and understand little questions (e.g., ‘Where’s your tummy?’).

By 2 to 3 years of age your child should be able to follow two-part instructions (‘Get your teddy and put it on the chair’) and string two or three words together to talk about and ask for things.

More detailed information

You might be interested to read the section here about Brown’s Stages. It provides an account of the development of the first ‘sentences’ children say, and the grammatical rules (morphemes) they apply. There is also information on this site about the way SLPs collect and analyses small children’s language samples.

If progress seems too slow If ‘first words’ have not emerged by 18 months make a concerted effort to spend half an hour a day just playing and interacting one-to-one with your baby. This can be difficult to organize in larger families, but it often does the trick! How to set these times up and maximize their usefulness can be discussed with an SLP, who may suggest and demonstrate various activities.

When to seek help Even though they are concerned that their child’s speech and language development may be unusual or slower than normal, people may hesitate to seek the professional advice of a speech-language pathologist. Sometimes this is because they are advised against it by reassuring friends, family and others. But sometimes it is because they think the child is too young to ‘be assessed’.

The fact is, babies or toddlers are never too young for a communication skills assessment. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) see children from infancy.

Contact KAREN GEORGE at (312) 399-0370 to set up your free screening.

10 Tips to Promote Speech and Language Skills in Your Child

By Karin Howard, M.A., CCC-SLP

The communication skills of a newborns are astonishing. In fact, speech and language development visibly occurs immediately after birth. Moments after the birth of my daughter, I looked into her eyes and said “Welcome, Rebekah. We have all been waiting for you.” Then, through body language, she communicated back to me. Searching with her little mouth she instantly and non-verbally expressed that she was hungry. As she began to nurse, I knew that we had begun to communicate.

Research in Speech and Hearing Sciences recognizes the communication skills of newborns and even the developing fetus during the last trimester of pregnancy. Nonetheless, parents tend to concentrate on the physical growth of their young child as he or she develops. While physical development is very important, communication skills are equally important. In fact, these two areas of development are interdependent for a healthy child.

The following are ten ways you can nurture the five different areas of speech and language development in typically developing infants and toddlers.


Social Language

1) Eye contact. When communicating with your child, look at his or her face and eyes as often as possible. This helps your child learn that it is appropriate to look at people during communication. Children learn a lot about you through facial expressions and acquire articulation skills by watching the movement of your mouth.

2) Taking turns. Talk to your child and then pause to give them a moment to verbalize. This teaches them the art of turn taking. This skill can also be accomplished during play, using objects and toys.


Expressive Language

3) Give your child space. When your child is trying to communicate with you and you know what they want, give them a few seconds before you instantly meet their needs. This will give them the opportunity to vocalize (coo and babble), point, or attempt a word.

4) Give your child choices and then let them express their choice by pointing, vocalizing, or attempting words. The feelings of confidence a child gains by expressing their own choice are building blocks for further exploration of expressive language.


Receptive Language

5) Get your child to follow instructions. Start with simple requests that only involve one element, such as “smile” or “kiss.” Then increase to two elements when one element becomes easy for your child (i.e. “Hand up,” or “Touch your nose,” and so on).

6) Read simple books to your child with one or two pictures on each page. Ask them questions that can be answered verbally or by pointing to the correct picture. Try not to put too much pressure on them. If your child does not respond after about 10 or 15 seconds, model the answer for them with a positive tone of voice.


Vocabulary Development

7) Reinforce and demonstrate. If your child produces a verbal attempt that resembles a word, praise them with a pleasant tone of voice and then model the word that you think they attempted. For example, if the child says “ba” for ball, say “You said ball. Yes, it is a ball!”

Explore. There are wonderful opportunities to model vocabulary out in the community. A simple trip to the market can be a great chance to name items for your child.



9) Observe how often other people understand your child’s speech. This will give you an idea of how clear his or her articulation really is (parents usually understand their children more than an outside listener). Don’t worry if your toddler is not producing all the sounds in the English language. Many sounds may not develop until four years of age or later. However, you should consider consulting a speech pathologist if it is extremely hard to understand your child’s speech at 3 years of age.

10) Articulate your words clearly when you communicate with your child. Speak slowly and remember to look directly at your child’s face.

While speech and language development varies with each child, there is no question that positive daily involvement from a parent and/or a loving caregiver makes the process much smoother. You, the parent, are the “super model” for your child’s speech and language development. Taking time to put these tips into action can give you a thoughtful approach as you interact with your amazing little communicator.

Contact Chicago Speech Therapy at 312-399-0370.

Helpful Links

Early Intervention Resources and Links

The Facts about Early Intervention

Delayed Speech or Language Development

Developmental Milestones

Typical Speech and Language Development

Language Development Chart

General Developmental Sequence Toddler through Preschool

Speech Disorders

Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development