Red Flags

Know the signs! Act early!

As an Early Childhood Educator or Home Care Provider, you play an important role in helping parents identify any potential communication issues their young children may be facing. The goal for all children is to Talk By 2 and Beyond!

  • The best time to affect brain and behavioral growth is between the ages of 0 to 30 months. Early cognitive development is primarily driven by biology.
  • Children can be referred at any age. Whether they are 6 months or 24 months, children under the age of 2 can be referred. Early referral and intervention before the age of 30 months have better and faster outcomes for the child.
  • Children should communicate for the same reasons as adults do by age 1: By 12 months, infants should use communication to show, to label, to protest or refuse, to interact – just like adults do.  But they will use the tools infants have:  sounds, babbling, smiles, facial expressions, gestures and some words.
  • Children must babble by 12 months: Children with limited sounds or who don’t babble (ex: bada) by 12 months continue to have fewer words at 18 months, 24 months and even, 36 months.  Refer early!
  • Children at 24 months use 100-150 words and 2-4 words sentences:  Research shows that 50% of children who do NOT show these milestones at 24 months have persistent delays at age 3.

If a child presents with one or more of these red flags at any age, REFER PARENTS IMMEDIATELY:

  • Lack or limited eye gaze with others
  • Lack of shared interest and enjoyment in others
  • Lack of response to sounds and/or name
  • Lack of showing or pointing gestures
  • Limited number of communicative gestures
  • Has been stuttering for more than 6 months
  • Has repeated ear infections
  • Limited play skills and/or pretend play
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Is difficult to understand
  • Acts frustrated when trying to communicate
  • Has difficulty eating or swallowing food
  • Voice problems (rough or raspy voice; too much air coming out of nose)
  • Repetitive use of objects or body movements
  • ANY loss of LANGUAGE and/or SOCIAL SKILLS at ANY age.

Children from infancy to senior kindergarten eligibility, with a speech and language delay should be referred to First Words for screening as soon as possible. If you also have concerns about a child’s development (i.e. play, socializing, motor skills) please refer families to the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) at 613-737-0871 ext. 4425 or have them complete the OCTC Intake Referral Form.

To refer a family to First Words, direct parents to the on-line screening clinic booking tool. Information for parents about what to expect from the clinic and how to help their children while they wait can be found in the Parents section of the web site.

For a more detailed guide to developmental red flags for early child educators, check out Red Flags – A Quick Reference Guide for Early Years Professionals in Ottawa.

red flags speech development guide ottawa cover