Speech and Language Therapy

Delayed speech and language development

Recent research findings suggest that one in five children in Victoria start school with a speech and language delay. Early intervention is critical as the child’s potential to learn language is maximal in the first five years of life. Our therapists are skilled at fostering learning and nurturing children’s motivation to learn through fun and play.

You should seek help if

  • your infant isn't responding to sound or vocalisation, or is disinterested in others
  • by 12 months isn't using gestures or waving 'bye bye'
  • prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate at 18 months
  • has trouble imitating sounds by 18 months
  • has fewer than 20 words at 18 months
  • has difficulty understanding simple verbal instructions
  • by 2 years old can only imitate speech or actions and doesn't spontaneously produce words
  • says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and can't use oral language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs
  • is more difficult to understand than others his or her age.


Clarity of speech normally improves throughout the first few years of life, and by the age of 4, the child should be understood by someone all the time, although the child may still substitute some sounds (e.g. ‘I hurt my fum’ instead of ‘I hurt my thumb’). A 3-year-old should be understood by an unfamiliar person at least 75% of the time. A 2-year-old should be understood at least 50% of the time. Speech delay can be related to hearing or language impairment, or overall cognitive or physical development. It can contribute to much frustration and at times challenging behaviour and anxiety. Our speech pathologist will assess and treat your child in a fun and supportive manner using a variety of interventions to assess problem areas in the child’s learning and assist in improving clarity.

By the age of four, a child can understand longer and more complex instructions and directions and readily express their ideas and thoughts, and demands in a two-way conversation. Between the ages of 3 and 4 the child quickly increases his vocabulary to about 1500 words, and uses many grammatical structures such as (‘is’, ‘are’, ‘have’), pronouns (he, she, her, his), verb tense markers and word endings (‘ing’, ‘ed’, ‘ly’), plurals (‘cars’), and adjectives (‘empty’). By the age of 5 years, the child’s grammatical competence generally is complete. The child uses more complex and mature vocabulary and language structure and demonstrates more complex conversations and storytelling. A good first language (speaking and understanding) forms a firm foundation for the child to develop his written language skills at school (reading, spelling, and writing).



Dyspraxia of speech occurs because of impaired voluntary programming of speech muscle movements for speech. These difficulties don’t occur with involuntary movements. For example, the child may be able to lick ice cream with his tongue, but can’t move the tongue to say the ‘k’ sound in a word such as ‘cake’. The error is inconsistent. The child may not be able to produce the sound when instructed to but may do so at another time. The child can be seen struggling to place the tongue or lips into the right position. In therapy with the child who has Childhood Dyspraxia of Speech our speech pathologist will use play therapy and learning activities to encourage and reward the child for sound or word repetition, moving towards more spontaneous speaking, and to improve accuracy and speed of speech movements so that the child can produce clearer longer words and sentences. Speech Dyspraxia may also occur in adults who, for example, have had a stroke.