Speech Delay in Toddlers

When your child begins to talk can be a fretful question for many parents. Let’s say your child is almost two and he still hasn’t said much at all. He can communicate with you in other ways, of course, but when it comes to talking to his peers – almost nothing! It probably frightens you, and so you start thinking about what you should do, the experts you should consult, and what you can do to encourage him even more.

This is very common among parents who have issues with their child’s speech progression. A speech delay in toddlers can be very concerning. If you know what is “normal” for a child at any age, you can be much more comfortable with the stage your child is at, and you can have a better idea of what to do if your child seems to be falling behind.

Warning Signs of Speech Delay in Toddlers

Sometimes, a speech delay in toddlers can become obvious and lead to serious questions about whether they are doing okay on the developmental timeline. Here are a few warning signs to help you decide:


Warning Signs

By 12 months

You should be concerned if your child doesn’t say “mama” or “dada,” doesn’t babble with consonants, doesn’t use gestures to get her point across, and doesn’t seem to understand things like “hello” and “bye bye.” If your child doesn’t say single words or is interested in the world around him, that could be a sign of trouble.

By 18 months

Your child doesn’t point out certain body parts, like his nose, when asked; doesn’t have a vocabulary of at least six words; and doesn’t communicate with you, such as pointing to something she wants or otherwise gesturing to things that she wants to point out to you.

Between 19-24 month

Your child doesn’t have a vocabulary that is growing rapidly, with at least one word a week added to it.

By two years

Your child should be able to carry on very simple conversations, including two-word sentences, and should be able to communicate what she wants, either with words or very clear gestures. If a child can’t do this, or doesn’t talk to herself or play communicating games with her dolls, this could be a problem.

Between 25 -35 months

Your child could have a problem if he doesn’t put sentences together, can’t ask simple questions, and doesn’t grasp things that have been repeated over and over, such as favorite nursery rhymes. Your child cannot be understood by anyone in the family.

By age three

Your child can’t be understood by family or strangers, can’t speak in short phrases or follow simple instructions, stutters and has facial grimacing, doesn’t like being separated from her parents or has no interest in playing with other kids.

By age four

At this point, if your child hasn’t mastered most consonants and doesn’t understand simple concepts like “different” and “same”, you might be dealing with a problem.

Watch a video for learn the experience of a mom with kids who have speech delay as well as tips for parents to prevent and treat speech delays in kids:

Normal Speech and Language Development

Creating a timetable for language development can be tough, because kids really do move at different paces. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong – it just means they are taking their own time to get to where they need to be.

Another thing to keep in mind is the birth date of your child. If your little one was premature, the timetable shifts a bit – your child might actually be “off” by a matter of weeks or even months. This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong! It just means that your preemie baby will catch up with her peers, usually around or just after the age of two.

1. Before 12 Months

At this stage your child is learning to put sounds to the environment around him. He might coo and “talk” to you with sounds when you come into the room. He might understand certain simple words and pay intense attention when you talk to him. A child at this age might start to string words together with no clear intention, and might say things like “mama” and “dada.”

2. Between 12 and 15 Months

Children at this point will be curious about language and babble like crazy, usually making a variety of sounds. They might imitate words, and this soon leads to them being able to name certain things, like a ball or a dog – though of course their speech isn’t perfect yet, and those words come out with an adorable garbled sound, but what they are saying is becoming more and more obvious.

3. Between 18 Months and Two Years

At this stage, a child is becoming more aware of the world, and can use words to create their own sentences that express how they feel. For instance, a baby might look at you and say “Mama sad” if you appear to be down. At this point they have a vocabulary of about 50 words, and most kids use it often, keeping up a constant babbling throughout the day. They can now tell you what things are, not just those that require simple nouns (like “ball”) but those that require more thought, such as “nose” and “mouth” and “happy.”

4. From Two to Three Years

At this point, children are able to put sentences together and express how they feel in their own unique ways. They might still stumble over words and have trouble putting complex concepts into language – that could be one reason why kids at this age get frustrated and melt down over not being able to communicate properly. Their brains get it, but they have some trouble moving it from their brain to their mouth.

Reasons Behind Speech Delay in Toddlers

There are many reasons why a toddler might suffer a speech delay. Hereditary factors and temperament all play a role, but there could be other reasons why your child is not on track with his or her peers.

1. Being a Boy

Boys often develop their speech later than girls do, lagging behind by about two months. For instance, boys might use an average of 30 words at 16 months, while girls are more fluent and use about 50. If a child is a preemie, that can delay the speech even more, as premature babies often reach milestones at a little later time than peers do. Remember to always count a preemie’s development from her due date, not from her actual birthdate.

2. Born in Multiples

For some reason, children born in multiples, such as twins or triplets, suffer more speech delays than single births do. This might be because of many factors, such as low birth weight or prematurity.

3. Ear Problems

It might have to do with the ears, too. Children who have serious ear infections might go through several weeks where the ears are filled with fluid, thus dampening the sound of the world around them. That means processing language becomes harder, and that leads to delays.

4. Engaging in Other Skills

Finally, remember that kids who are very engaged in one particular skill might not be interested in talking on time. A child who his just learning to walk is a good example: This child might be more focused on what her body is doing physically, and not paying much attention to developing their speech.

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