Helping Kids with Delayed Speech


Parent’s question

We have a great deal of concern about our son’s speech. At his third birthday party, compared to the other 3-year-old children, his vocabulary was very limited. He only says about 10 words and uses "mom" for everything he needs. And he calls everyone in our family "mom." We do not know how many words he should know by this age. Would you please point us in the right direction?

Our answer

Between the ages of 2 and 3, most children will acquire a vocabulary of about 450 words. Your son has not reached this milestone in normal speech development. Have you addressed your concerns with his pediatrician? You can contact your local school district’s director of special education for a diagnostic screening at no cost to you through the IDEA process called Child Find. This will help you see whether a delay exists.

You need to find out about the federal special-education program for children age 3-5. Section 619 of Part B of IDEA defines the preschool program, which guarantees a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities age 3-5. Under this program, your son might be eligible to receive services that will help him improve his speech before he enters kindergarten. Your local director of special education will have information. You may also wish to contact Michigan’s 619 coordinator (click here for details) to learn about your rights and the local programs and services available to you.

Learn more about other opportunities for helping children from 3 to 5 who have disabilities, check out the IDEA Parent Guide from the National Center for Learning Disabilities; explore stats and research from the Data Accountability Center or check out the National Association of Young Children.

The NECTAC – National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, supported by the U.S. Department of Education – also serves infants and toddlers with special needs and their families. Each infant or toddler with a disability will be assessed, and a written individualized family plan will be developed.


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