Developmental Stages of Language

Expressive and Receptive charts by age groups:

By 6 months 



Vocalizes any sounds

Turns toward voice

Produces a range of vocalizations

Startles at loud sounds

Produces a variety of facial expressions

Can be comforted by caregiver's voice


By 12 months



Babbles with variety of consonant-like sounds (ba-ba, ga-ga)

Ceases activity when told no

Takes turn vocalizing

Can participate in social games (peek-a-boo)

Imitates vocalizations or gestures

Consistently locates sources of sound in environment

Uses conventional gestures *points) and vocalizations

Looks at or acts on objects mentioned or pointed to by adults

Communicates for behavioral regulation, social interaction, and joint attention



By 18 months



Produces a variety of sounds that may sound like words or short sentences

Responds to his / her name

Uses a variety of jestures and vocalization

Responds to names of objects within sight

Produces a few meaningful words to request objects, and direct attention

Responds to simple requests (come here, sit down, stand up)


By 24 months



Uses at least 10 - 15 words

Responds consistently to many names of objects in immediate environment

Uses 2 word sentences meaningfully, including simple questions

Retrieves some objects out of sight upon request

Speech is present at least 50% intelligible

Responds to 2 step requests (get the ball, bounce it to caregiver)


By 36 months



Produces sentences of 3 - 5 words

Responds to ‘what', ‘who', or ‘where' questions

Talks about past and future events

Points to many different pictures in a book upon request

Ask questions using ‘what', who', and ‘where'

Responds to questions or comments about objects / events outside of immediate context to caregiver

Speech is greater than 75% intelligible, has vocabulary of 700 - 100 words

Shows interest in other persons conversation


When there are variations in a child's progression through the critical periods, typical development of communication can be compromised. The effect of these variations can range from very mild to severe and can impact on not only what is learned/expressed, but how this occurs as well. In most people who have developmental disabilities, there are factors that have influenced their transition through these critical periods.  These may include prenatal and birth trauma, neurological factors such as cerebral palsy, biological factors such as Down's syndrome, or environmental factors.

It is your knowledge of the various modes of communication that will enhance your interactions with people who have developmental disabilities and will facilitate and broaden your communicative experiences.


Funding for this program provided by the Department of Health and Human Services