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English Language Milestones 

for Children Adopted Between 25-30 months of Age

Data reprinted from Glennen, S. & Masters, M. G. (2002). Typical and atypical language development in infants and toddlers adopted from Eastern Europe.  American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, ??,  pp-pp.   


Child's Current Age



Expressive Vocabulary Words


Average Length of 3 Longest Sentences in Morphemes   


Use of 4 Grammar Markers

    Mean +/- 1 St Dev Range Mean +/- 1 St Dev Range Mean +/- 1 St Dev

26 - 27 Months



 20.83 -   43.17

     23 -   47


  0.84 -  1.60

 1.00 –   1.66


 0.00 -  0.00

28 - 30 Months



   6.38 -   78.42

       0 -   84


  0.06 -  3.40

 0.00 –   4.33


 0.00 -  0.00

31 - 33 Months




     52 - 107



 2.00 –   2.00



34 - 36 Months



111.62 -251.98

     71 - 261


  1.85 -  5.87

 1.00 –   6.66


 0.00 -  3.08

37 - 40 Months



173.27 -302.45

   140 - 305


  3.96 -  7.94

 3.66 –   8.33


 1.37 -  3.97


Information is based on 14 children adopted from Eastern Europe.  N= number of children (from the total of 14) who provided information within each Current Age group.  Expressive Vocabulary refers to the number of vocabulary words indicated by parents on the Language Development Survey (LDS) (Rescorla, 1989).  *310 is the maximum possible score on the LDS.  Sentence Length is the average length of each child’s three longest utterances counted in morphemes.  Use of Four Grammatical Morphemes refers to the child’s expressive use of the following bound morphemes: present progressive “ing,” past tense “ed,” possessive “’s,” and plurals.  * 4.0 is the maximum score for Grammatical Morphemes.   

What to Expect and When to Get Concerned

Children adopted between 25-30 months of age begin to use English words immediately.  After 2-3 months home, the typical child was already using 32 words.  Any child who is not adding English words to his or her vocabulary within the first few weeks home should be considered language delayed and referred for speech and language services.  By 31 - 33 months of age, the children averaged 79.5 words in their vocabularies and were putting 2-3 word sentences together.  Children in this age group who are not speaking 50 words or 2 word phrases by 32 months should be referred for services. Vocabulary growth leaped along at an extremely rapid rate and by age 37-40 months  nearly matched vocabulary levels for children adopted at younger ages.  However, sentence length and use of grammar do not rebound so quickly.  Similar to children adopted at 19-24 months of age, vocabulary skills caught up more quickly than other language skills.  When children do not meet these milestones, parents should contact the early intervention program in their school district or seek services from a private speech language pathologist who specializes in working with infants and toddlers.  More information on these services is available on the Infant Toddler web page. 

English language delays in comprehension and production continued through age 40 months.  Therefore by age 3, English language tests cannot be used to reliably assess children adopted after 25 months of age.  English language tests can be used as tools to plan intervention or to monitor progress, but should not be used for diagnostic classification or predictive purposes.  At this time it is unclear when children adopted after 25 months of age fully close the gap in language skills.  In looking at information from children adopted at younger ages, a rough "rule of thumb" emerges.  Take the child's age of adoption and double it to determine when the child's language skills will catch up to English language norms.  If the rule is applied to older children, a child adopted at 25 months of age should catch up by 4.2 years.  Children adopted at 30 months of age should catch up by age 5.  Preschool children who do not seem to be learning English quickly enough to close the gap by these ages should be considered language delayed and referred for speech and language services.

Towson University

Sharon Glennen, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders
Towson University
Towson, MD 21252
Last Modified 7/07/02