Expressive and receptive communications

Language can be broken down into several components. First of all, the receptive part (understanding), and then the expressive component (when one speaks).

Wednesday October 26, 2011

Expressive and receptive communications

By Stéphanie Laurin, Director of Psychosocial Services and Amélie Michaud, Speech Therapist at Careplus

Development of the receptive and expressive components in a child's normal evolution *

*Please note that the ages indicated below are approximate. There is thus no reason to get worried if a child is a few months behind schedule.

Precursors to communication


  • Visual contact
  • Interaction
  • Intentions to communicate


  • Self-image
  • Permanence of the object
  • Categorization
  • Purposeful use of objects
  • Causality: causes/consequences


  • Imitation
  • Nonverbal understanding (understanding that he or she must sit down, if one points at the chair)
  • Nonverbal expression (facial expressions, gestures, pointing)


Between 1 and 2 years old:

  • Understands short instructions (e.g.: come eat, come take your bath)
  • Understands several simple and practical words
  • Understands the questions “where” and “who” in context

Between 2 and 3 years old:

  • Understands 300 words at 2 years old
  • Understands 1,500 words at 3 years old
  • Understands simple instructions without gestures to help them understand
  • Understands questions “where”, “with whom”, “with what”

Between 3 and 4 years old:

  • Understands several questions (“why”, “what is”)
  • Understands instructions with two or three elements, without context
  • Understands stories

Between 4 and 5 years old:

  • Understands more complex questions (“when”)
  • Understands longer and more complex instructions
  • Understands the notion of time (“after”, “before”, “later”)
  • Understands the notion of space (“in the middle”, etc.)




(sounds in words)

All sounds aren't acquired at the same time!

  • i, ou, a: 12 to 18 months old
  • p, b, m, t, d, n: 12 to 18 months old
  • k, g, l: 24 to 36 months old
  • f, v, s, z: begins to pronounce them around 36 months old
  • r, “ch”, “j”: 42 to 60 months old
  • consonant groups (e.g.: br, tr, bl, yen, yea, wa): 42 to 60 months old




  • Juxtaposition of words (two-word sentences): 18 to 24 months old
  • Two to three-word sentences with errors: 18 to 24 months old
  • Refers to himself or herself by his or her first name: 18-24 months old
  • Refers to himself or herself as “me”: 24-32 months old
  • Refers to himself or herself as “I”: 42-48 months old
  • Uses the determiners (a, an), adjectives and prepositions: 32-36 months old
  • Begins to use sentences with several words (3-5 words): 36-42 months old
  • Uses the determiner (the), pronouns (he, she, I, you), possessive adjectives (my, your): 36-42 months old




  • First words: around 10-12 months old
  • at 18 months old: 20 to 40 words
  • at 24 months old: 100 words
  • at 30 months old: 200 words
  • at 36 months old: 300 words




  • Visual contact
  • Interested in communication
  • Rules of speech
  • Speaks


• Bergeron, Anne-Marie, Henry, France (2008) GIRAFE: Guide d’intervention en réadaptation auditive : Formule de l’enfant. Institut Raymond-Dewar.
• Beauchemin, M., Martin, S., Ménard, S., (2000) L’apprentissage des sons et des phrases, un trésor à découvrir. Cité de la Santé de Laval. Les Éditions de l’Hôpital Sainte-Justine.



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