Delayed Speech or Language Development
Your son is 2 years old and still isn't talking. He says a few words, but compared with his peers you think he's way behind. You remember that his sister could put whole sentences together at the same age. Hoping he will catch up, you postpone seeking professional advice. Some kids are early walkers and some are early talkers, you tell yourself. Nothing to worry about...
This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak. Unless they observe other areas of "slowness" during early development, parents may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that "he'll outgrow it" or "she's just more interested in physical things."
Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.
Understanding Normal Speech and Language Development
It's important to discuss early speech and language development, as well as other developmental concerns, with your doctor at every routine well-child visit. It can be difficult to tell whether a child is just immature in his or her ability to communicate or has a problem that requires professional attention.
These developmental norms may provide clues:
Before 12 Months
It's important for kids this age to be watched for signs that they're using their voices to relate to their environment. Cooing and babbling are early stages of speech development. As babies get older (often around 9 months), they begin to string sounds together, incorporate the different tones of speech, and say words like "mama" and "dada" (without really understanding what those words mean).
Before 12 months, children should also be attentive to sound and begin to recognize names of common objects (for example bottle, binky, etc.). Babies who watch intently but don't react to sound may be showing signs of hearing loss.
By 12 to 15 Months
Kids this age should have a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling (like p, b, m, d, or n), begin to imitate and approximate sounds and words modeled by family members, and typically say one or more words (not including "mama" and "dada") spontaneously. Nouns usually come first, like "baby" and "ball." Your child should also be able to understand and follow simple one-step directions ("Please give me the toy," for example).
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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