14-17 years

This is a guide to how children and young people typically develop their talking and understanding of words between 14 and 17 years.

Children and young people develop skills at different rates, but by 17 years, most young people will: 

  • Follow long and complicated instructions. 
  • Know when they haven’t understood something. They will ask to be told again or will ask for something specific to be explained. 
  • Easily swap between ‘classroom’ talk and ‘break-time’ talk, adjusting their talking style based on who they are talking to. 
  • Tell long and very complicated stories. 

Things to look out for 

Some children and young people struggle with learning to talk and understand words. Possible signs to look at for at this age include: 

  • Your child has difficulty giving specific answers or explanations. 
  • Your child has difficulty telling their ideas in the right order. 
  • Your child is better at understanding individual instructions than group instructions.  
  • Your child finds it difficult to understand hidden meanings. For example, they wouldn’t understand that someone wants to close the window or turn up the heating when they say, ‘It’s a bit chilly in here!’. 
  • Your child finds long and complicated instructions hard to understand. 
  • Your child has trouble learning new words. 
  • Your child takes a long time to organise what they are going to say or write. 
  • Your child takes what others say literally. For example, they don’t understand that someone could take longer than one minute if they say, “I’ll be back in a minute”. 
  • Your child has difficulty taking turns in conversations. 
  • Your child talks to teachers and friends in the same way instead of adjusting their style of talking based on who they are talking to. 

If you notice any of these things, talk to your child’s school or GP, or contact our free speech and language advice line, which is a confidential phone call with an experienced speech and language therapist. During the 30-minute call, you will be given the opportunity to talk through your concerns and questions regarding your child’s development. You can book your phone call here.