Main content

Alert message

Handout D: Stages of Nonlinguistic/Prelinguistic Communication Development

Sapp, W.K. (2005). Stages of nonlinguistic/prelinguistic communication development. Chapel Hill, NC: Early Intervention Training Center for Infants and Toddlers With Visual Impairments, FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-CH.

Approximate age rangesExpressive communicationReceptive communication

Birth to 3 months

  • undifferentiated cries
  • cooing
  • begin to make single vowel sounds

  • attend to voices
  • become excited when hear parent’s voice
  • smile in response to smiles and coos from parents
  • quit crying when picked up

3 to 6 months

  • increase babbling and include double syllables, changes in pitch/inflection
  • babble to people and objects
  • laugh
  • vocalize to express pleasure

  • smile at faces
  • stop vocalizing to attend when parent approaches
  • begin to respond to their names

6 to 9 months

  • attempt to imitate gestures and sounds
  • initiate vocalizations
  • use distinctly different vocalizations based on state (e.g., anger, contentment)

  • comprehend some of their parents gestures
  • look at common object or person when named
  • comprehend “no” even if they don’t always respond to “no”

9 to 12 months

  • gesture and vocalize to express wants and needs
  • begin to shake head “no”
  • begin to wave “bye”
  • raise arms to be picked up
  • repeat actions that elicit laughter from others

  • understand “hot”
  • begin to follow simple commands
  • look at toy or object when asked to


Adamson, L.B. (1996). Communication development during infancy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Gard, A., Gilman, L., & Gorman, J. (1993). Speech and language development chart (2nd ed.) [Poster]. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.

Sachs, J. (1997). Communication development in infancy. In J.B. Gleason (Ed.), The development of language (4th ed., pp. 40-68). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.