By the time children reach school age, they should be talking in full grammatically correct sentences. Long gone are the days of 1-2 word phrases and “baby talk”. Although children in Kindergarten may still present with some developmentally appropriate articulation difficulties, strangers should be able to understand them 100% of the time. Literacy acquisition also comes into play, from learning letter sounds, to building their phonological awareness, to reading and writing.

Speech and Language Milestones for School Age Children

4 year olds can:

  • ask ‘wh’ questions
  • understand most ‘wh’ questions
  • speak in complete, and 
grammatically correct sentences (e.g., “The dog is hiding behind the tree.”)
  • retell stories using picture clues
  • count the number of syllables in
  • speak with very few 

5 year olds:

  • Understand yesterday/tomorrow, more/less, some/many, before/after
  • Use complex sentences
  • Can answer “What happens if…..?” 
  • Can classify according to physical 
attributes, size, shape and colour
  • Know many letter names
  • Follow three-step directions
  • Repeats sentences up to nine words 
in length

6 – 8 year olds:

  • Use all pronouns correctly (e.g. “I”, “he”, “she”, “him”, etc)
  • Speak like a “miniature adult” (ie., The child uses common sayings and correct grammar).
  • Are able to provide definitions of words and multiple definitions of words.
  • Are able to tell riddles and jokes
  • Are able to understand frequently 
occurring idioms, metaphors, 
multiple meanings, and proverbs
  • Are able to list events of a story in 
the appropriate order

Warning Signals for School-Aged Children Compared to other children the child’s age, he/she demonstrates difficulty…

  • organizing words into sentences after age 5.
  • understanding speech (e.g. stories, conversations, t.v. programs).
  • following directions.
  • recalling and retelling events and
  • telling and understanding jokes.
  • staying on topic in conversations.
  • with appropriate play/social
  • acquiring literacy skills.

For speech and language milestones for younger children, click here.

Speech Therapists / Speech Pathologists can help with the following:

Articulation/Speech clarity difficulties:

  • the child is difficult to understand due to pronunciation issues
  • the child is getting frustrated because peers/teachers are having difficulty understanding what he/she is saying.

Stuttering difficulties:

  • the child is repeating sounds (e.g. “b-b-b-ball), syllables (e.g. “ta-ta-table”), or blocks/gets stuck on a word and it looks as though no sound/air is coming out.
  • the child is frustrated and avoiding certain words and situations.

Expressive Language difficulties

  • the child has difficulty retelling a grammatically correct story in logical order
  • the child uses a lot of vague/non-specific vocabulary (e.g. ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘thing’, ‘it)

Receptive Language difficulties

  • the child has difficulty following simple or complex instructions
  • the child appears to have weak vocabulary knowledge
  • the child has poor knowledge of various concepts (e.g. ‘beside’, ‘in front’, ‘some’, ‘alll’, ‘empty’, ‘full’, ‘middle’etc.)
  • the child has difficulty making predictions, inferencing and problem solving

Literacy difficulties

  • the child has weak pre- literacy/phonological awareness skills
  • the child has weak sound/letter knowledge
  • the child has poor decoding skills
  • the child has weak sight word knowledge
  • the child has poor reading comprehension skills
  • the child has poor writing skills (ie. The child struggles with spelling, writing a sentence/story in a coherent manner



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