Condition: Excessive Jargon Use

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Jargon.  Babbling.  Made-up Words.  Gobbledygook.  We’ve all heard different names for the phenomenon when children produce a string of sounds that don’t actually make real words.  Jargon and babbling often has an adult-like intonation despite the lack of meaning.  We see this all of the time in typically-developing children as they are learning language.  It is usually a very good sign because it means the child is exploring sounds and trying to figure out what this whole “spoken language” thing is all about.  

But for some children, they have a hard time growing past the use of jargon.  This usually indicates a delay or disorder in the development of expressive language or speech.  For these children, our goal should not be to eliminate jargon (as it is a normal part of language development).  But instead, we should strive to improve their expressive communication skills so that they no longer need the jargon.

Developmental Norms:

Babbling and jargon begin before the first birthday as a normal part of speech/language development.  It is typical for a child to mix real words with jargon when they are in the 1-2 word phase (saying single words and beginning to use two word together.  

We can use intelligibility as a way to decide if a child’s jargon use is considered “excessive” for his/her age.  A guideline for expected conversational intelligibility levels of typically developing children talking to unfamiliar listeners can be calculated by dividing the child’s age in years by four and converting that number into a percentage (Coplan & Gleason, 1988; Flipsen, 2006)(Collected from ASHA):

  • 1 year—25% intelligible
  • 2 years—50% intelligible
  • 3 years—75% intelligible
  • 4 years—100% intelligible
Delayed vs. Disordered: 
It can also be helpful to look at jargon use in terms of normal, delayed, or disordered jargon use:
  • Normal Use of Jargon:
    • Used before first words emerge as a precursor to speech
    • Mixed with real words between 12-24 mos 
  • Delayed Use of Jargon:
    • When a child’s entire speech/language system is developing slower than normal but jargon is used similarly to how a child uses it during that developmental phase
  • Disordered Use of Jargon:
    • When the child’s speech/language system is not just slow but also disordered and the child is using jargon in an atypical way (such as in place of real words)



When evaluating jargon use, it’s important to try to determine the cause or function of the jargon use.  To do this, you will need to complete a full speech/language evaluation so you have as much information as possible to guide your diagnosis.

Here are some possible causes of jargon use: 

  • Age: Some jargon is normal up through 2 years but should diminish over time
  • Multiple speech errors make speech sound like jargon even though if has meaning (multiple collapses of sounds or many phonological processes, cluttering)
  • “Twin Language” (when close siblings make up their own language to communicate with each other)
  • True non-sense (child is just making sounds with no real meaning behind them)
    • Delayed/disordered expressive language skills

Here are some additional resources regarding evaluating this condition:

Reducing Jargon and Babbling in Children – Webinar Recording

This full-length, hour-long webinar will explore how to determine the cause of excessive jargon use and how to intervene based on the cause.

Play-Based Assessments

Have a child who can’t sit down for standardized assessments?  Find out here how to conduct a play-based assessment instead.

How to Collect a Language Sample

A language sample can be a great part of a full evaluation.  Learn how I collect a language sample here.

Suggested Goals and Materials:

The types of goals you work on will depend on what you decide is the cause of the jargon use.  Click on the area of need below to see suggested goals and materials for that problem:

If the child seems to be a late talker or is using jargon normally, but later than expected…

If the child has multiple speech sound errors that make speech sound like jargon…

If the child has phonological processes, omissions, and a fast rate of speech

If the child is not developing expressive language skills as expected


Here are some more resources and information that may help you when it comes to treating this condition.

Reducing Jargon and Babbling in Children – Webinar Recording

This full-length, hour-long webinar will explore how to determine the cause of excessive jargon use and how to intervene based on the cause.

Resources, Tools, and Training for Speech-Language Professionals

*** The SLP Solution is for informational and educational purposes only and does not provide medical or psychological advice.  We provide general resources but cannot tell you exactly what should be done for a specific client.  Every client is different and your clinical judgement should be used when making decisions about specific individuals.


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