Are you worried that your child is not talking yet?


Speech Delay in Children: Causes, Concerns, and Seeking Help

Babies and children communicate in a variety of ways, from the very first cry at the time of birth to using actual words our children are communicating their needs to us. As parents we are excited when our baby coos in response to our voice, and then begins babbling and then we patiently wait to hear their very first word, and when that happens it brings us so much joy.

There are a few instances when young children don’t start speaking when we expect them to, and even though we are advised not to compare children, as parents we can’t help but get worried when other children of similar ages start speaking one after another.

The question that comes to mind is should you be worried? While we can’t really tell parents not to worry, perhaps understanding the situation may help ease the concern a bit. It is quite common for children to experience speech delays, some sort of minor speech problems and even disjointed speech. Usually the period of speech problems and disjointed speech are short lived and usually occurs because language development takes place at a very brisk pace, and the child soon outgrows these problems.

Let us now try and answer some of the questions related to a child’s language development.

When do babies talk?

There is no certainty at what age kids start talking as each child develops at a different pace, but there are many factors that influence when your baby will start speaking.  Having said that, there is a time span when babies begin to talk, wherein you can expect certain things to occur. Most kids will say their first word around 12 months, around 18 months to 2 yrs. They have 50 word vocabulary and may even start making two word sentences like “want teddy”, or “there’s dada”. After 2 yrs. As their understanding increases so does their vocabulary and by 3yrs they would be able to communicate using simple sentences and phrases and also follow simple 1 and 2 step instructions like, “ put the ball in the basket” or “go to the dining table and take a banana”. This however is a very rough guide of when babies talk, and differences in and around 6 months is considered normal.

Does my child have a speaking problem?

Before you start worrying about speaking problems in your child, it is better to know about the various reasons for delayed speech-

  • Often children don’t speak but point to things that they want, but they are able to understand what you are telling them, in this case they are just late bloomers.
  • At times your child may repeat a word over and over again, and while you may find it difficult to understand them, do keep in mind that they are trying to communicate and may not know the correct words to fully express themselves, in such cases you can prompt your child with questions to help them out.
  • Patience is necessary when your child is learning to communicate, try and follow your child’s trend of thought, if your child says “apple”, before you rush to cut up an apple for them, try to explore this further, you child may just be practicing saying the word “apple”, or may have remembered an apple, or is trying to show you that they can see an apple.
  • As parents you will see that they sometimes follow what you tell them and sometimes they don’t, this could happen if they haven’t fully understood what you told them, repeat yourself using simpler words.
  • Children from Bi or multilingual homes also take time to start speaking as they are still processing the various words in different languages. For example an older sister could be called “akka” or “didi” in the same home. If this is the case try speaking only one language at home for your child to follow and then once they are older and have started speaking you can introduce them to another language as well.
  • There may also be instances where your child may not need to communicate because they have a very alert older sibling who does all the talking for them. As a result your child does not get the practice they need to communicate for themselves. In this case, as parents you need to ensure that your younger child gets some alone time with you to practice communicating.

When should you seek help if you notice signs of speech delay?

It’s best not to hit the panic button if your child doesn’t start speaking by 12 months, but do ask around if you’re concerned, Talking to family members may give you an insight of whether there were other children who also began speaking late, other relatives and friends might be willing to share their experiences with you. However, if you are still not satisfied then you can always visit your pediatrician, a general practitioner or your family doctor, but don’t be too surprised if they too tell you it is perfectly normal.

You should however be concerned if –

  • Your child is not babbling or at least trying to verbally communicate in some way.
  • Doesn’t not show any reaction to sounds of their toys, the doorbell ringing, the pressure cooker going off, or any new sound in the environment.
  • If your child does not respond in any way to you calling out their name, or has difficulty following even the simplest instructions like “come to mama” or “give dada”.
  • It is admittedly amusing when young children mispronounce words in the initial days of their language development, however if they continue to mispronounce words despite your efforts to correct them, it is a cause for concern.

As a parent, trust your instincts and visit a doctor to talk about your concerns. The earlier the diagnosis the better. If there is a cause for concern then you may be advised to get a hearing test done or to visit a speech therapist. With the required help given at the right time it is possible for your child to have a relatively regular life.

Here are a few ways you can stimulate verbal communication in your little one

  • Talk face to face – Make sure you’re at the same level with your child when you talk to help. This will help them focus and encourage them to respond.
  • Keep the commentary going -When going for a walk keep a running commentary of what is going on and what you are looking at. Remember to use simple sentences and talk slowly, the more language your child listens to the more words they learn, and they may even chime in, repeating familiar words. Draw their attention to and call out certain words like dog, flower, leaf and so on.
  • Sing songs – especially ones with repetitions in them, little children enjoy songs with repetition and actions, songs like ‘the wheels of the bus’ are a great hit with them.
  • Word building – use every opportunity to build on what you child says, for e.g. if they say tree, you can say ‘tall tree’, or ‘round ball’ if they just say ‘ball’.
  • Read books – reading the same books over and over again leads to familiarity of content. As you read, skip out a few words and let your child fill them in. Reading is also a good way to build vocabulary as your child gets to hear lots of words.
  • Wait patiently – instead of finishing the word or sentence for your child, patiently wait for them to say it out. Children are still learning how to form words and many times it takes them a while to say it out loud. So also is the case when they are trying to make sentences, they have to think about which words to put together.
  • Involve others too – older siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts will love spending a few moments of their time talking to your little one and your child might enjoy the change too. Remember to keep them aware of the methods you are using to help your child speak and we’re sure they’ll be happy to oblige.
  • Online resources – Look for online resources that are designed to help in the language development of children. Spending a few minutes daily on these resources will keep things interesting for your child.

At Eurokids, the curriculum is designed to enhance the development of various skills in young children. They are given numerous opportunities during the course of the day to communicate verbally in the classroom as well as activities that the parents can do at home. Children are assessed at regular intervals and parents are informed about their child’s progress.