Receptive Language: Is Your Child On Track?

image credit: Lynne Featherstone

Does your child not consistently respond to their name? Does your child have difficulty following simple directional commands? Does your child have difficulty pointing to objects being named, pointing to body parts or answering simple questions?

If you are answering yes to some or all of the above question, it could mean that your child is experiencing a delay in their receptive language skills. Receptive language is a child’s ability to comprehend spoken language. The following are components of receptive language skills:

  • Auditory Attention: eye contact, distractibility, impulsivity, responding to name
  • Auditory Recognition: recognizing body parts, common objects and the function of objects
  • Auditory Retention: retaining a sequencing of directional commands
  • Auditory Comprehension: understanding salutations, basic yes/no questions, basic wh questions, reasoning skills, problem solving skills
  • Auditory Integration: integration of all of the above tasks

Here is a checklist of things your child should be able to comprehend based on their age:

12-18 months

  1. Respond to name when called
  2. Utilizes eye contact
  3. Recognizes and point to named items/objects
  4. Understands simple directions and the word ‘no’
  5. Gives a toy upon request or brings familiar objects from another room when asked
  6. Recognizes pictures of objects and familiar people

18-24 months

  1. Understands simple questions and commands
  2. Identifies body parts and clothing items when named
  3. Listens to stories and points to pictures when asked
  4. Understands simple actions in context
  5. Demonstrates the function of objects in play
  6. Understands approximately 300 words, understands inhibitory words and uses a head nod in response to yes/no questions

2-2 ½ years

  1. Likes to hear the same story repeated
  2. Matches 3-4 colors
  3. Understands basic concepts of big vs. little
  4. Holds up fingers to tell age
  5. Answers simple wh questions with referent present
  6. Follows two-step related directional commands
  7. Recognizes actions/verbs
  8. Identifies the functions of objects

Here are some ways to help improve your child’s receptive language skills:

1. Play Games!

  • Peek a boo to increase eye contact
  • Mr. Potato Head for body parts
  • Baby doll for symbolic play

2. Ask questions

  • Ask simple yes/no questions (e.g., Should I eat the car? Do you want bubbles?) Use head nodding to assist with answering these questions.
  • Ask simple wh questions (e.g., What’s your name, What are you eating? What does a cow say?)

If you are concerned and would like to have your child’s receptive language evaluated- talk to your pediatrician and ask if a referral to a speech-language pathologist is appropriate at this time!

–Kristina Frimmel, M.A., CCC-SLP, Supervisor, Pediatric Speech and Language Pathology Department
Center for Childhood Speech and Language Disorders

1 Response to “Receptive Language: Is Your Child On Track?”


  1. 1 Tera March 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

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    I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers


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