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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Marge, M.S. CCC-SLP

My Toddler Isn’t Talking

“I’m worried about my child’s speech. His pediatrician said he’ll grow out of it and my family thinks so, too, but I’m really concerned.”

Does My Child Need Help?

As a parent, you know your child’s speech better than anyone else. You know how he listens and how he talks. If your child is a late talker, you may become anxious about whether he is developing appropriately. Although children may talk at different ages, they go through the same stages when learning to speak. This can make it hard to know if your child is developing normally and just taking a bit longer to talk or is falling behind other children. If your child is learning two languages at once, it may take her longer to talk. If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, contact a licensed speech language pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Risk Factors

Some factors that may put your child at risk for language problems include:

  1. Understanding what someone says. A child usually understands words before they use words. This is known as receptive language. Your child may be able to point to objects when you name them and follow simple directions. If your child seems to understand well for their age, they are more likely to catch up with their language. If you think they do not understand what others say, they may have a language delay.

  2. Using gestures. Your child may use gestures to communicate, especially before they can say many words. Gestures include waving “hi” or “bye,” pointing to objects, and putting their arms up to be picked up. The more gestures your child uses, the more likely it is that they will catch up to other children their age. A good sign is if your child makes sounds while using gestures.

  3. Learning new words. Even if a child is slow to talk they should still try to use new words monthly. They may begin combining words or start to ask questions. If this happens, they are more likely to catch up. If you do not hear new words often, your child may have a language delay.

Problems with the above list does not mean that your child has a language delay. However, they may be more at risk. If you are concerned, you may want to have your child tested by a speech and language therapist.

What Does a Speech Therapist Do?

Speech and language therapists are experts in communication. The speech therapist will talk to you about your child’s speech and language development including:

  • How many words your child can say.

  • What you think he understands.

  • Other developmental milestones like walking or using his hands.

  • If you can understand your child.

  • Any other concerns you have about your child.

The speech and language therapist may:

  • Watch how your child plays

  • Watch how your child communicates

  • Show your child some pictures and try to get her to say some words

  • Test how your child understands language (receptive language) and test how your child expresses herself (expressive language)

  • Listen to how your child makes sounds

  • Examine your child’s mouth to see if there are any problems

A speech therapist will make a recommendation for how to help your child which may include speech therapy or guidance or how you can help your child to talk.

How Can I Help My Child Talk?

Here are some ways you can help your child to talk:

  • Read to your child.

  • Listen to what your child says with your full attention.

  • Talk to your child slowly and clearly in the languages you speak.

  • Repeat what your child says the right way instead of correcting him.

  • Add to what your child says. If he says, “dog”, you say, “Yes, that’s a brown dog.”

If you feel that your child’s speech and language skills are not developing correctly, the earlier you get help, the better!

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