Do you have a child who is old enough to start talking but he is not talking yet? Are you worried that something maybe wrong with him? Well, you are right to worry, however, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet. It could be frustrating for parents when their kids are eighteen months and above and yet utter no words. There could be many reasons responsible for this. Sometimes the child is not interested or has no need to talk just yet, it could be delayed speech, and sometimes even though you child cannot speak, he has his own way to communicate the things he wants to say or do. It could be pointing at things when he needs them, shaking his head etc.
In most cases though, babies who are late talkers end up speaking just fine within the coming years. If your baby is not talking yet, however, there are some simple things you can do at home to encourage him. It is perfectly ok and appropriate to be concerned as a parent because at this stage, it is clear that your child is behind the curve from a developmental perspective. Usually, he is expected to start using two-word sentences around the age of two years. Psychologists refer to this as telegraphic speech, and it might include phrases like “Mum, milk” or “Dad, candy”. Kids at this age convey a meaningful sentence in just two or three words, leaving out the articles such as “and”, “or” and so on.
There appears to be an increasing number of children who are well behind the norms in relation to speech and language development. In fact, it is becoming so common, according to at least on speech pathologist, that some are calling for new ‘norms’ to be created since later development seems to be the new norm.
Note: While it is true that children need to hear an abundance of words to develop healthy skills, encouraging language is about the quality and quantity of the words we speak. Encouraging you child to talk isn’t about chattering incessantly to him in order to expose him to as many words as possible. Honestly, can you think of anything more off-putting than someone blabbering? Even our adoring babies, the captive audiences they are, will tune out because they are unable to throw something or ask you to stop. The great new is that both come naturally when we perceive babies as whole people able communicators ready to be informed about the happenings in their lives, and in turn share their thoughts and feelings. Comprehend this simple truth, interact, engage, and converse naturally, and we have the language lessons nailed.
Why is Your Child Not Speaking Yet?
As we said above, there are several reasons responsible for your child not speaking, it could be one or more of these reasons that affect your child’s ability to start communicating. We will look at some of these reasons and how you can work around them to help your child start talking.
1. Late Talker
A child is considered a late talker when he is between eighteen and thirty-five months old and still unable to express himself. He understands what you say to him, but he has limited expressive vocabulary. This means that he does not use a lot of words or a lot of different words and word combinations. To come to this conclusion, all other areas of development need to be typical things like their play and when they walked, hearing, and so on. However, life isn’t always that straightforward and some later talkers might have a delay in understanding as well. An estimate of about 15% of children at the age of 2 present with slow onset and development of their expressive language, about 50% of late talkers do score in the normal range by age 3 on vocabulary measures and in the normal range of grammar and conversational skill by school age.
2. Late Bloomers
Late bloomers is the name given to children who catch up in the 3-5-year-old period. Yet research has shown that children who had expressive language delay between 24 and 31 months of age had weaker language score skill throughout their adolescence. Even though they had language scores in the average range, they were still performing more poorly than their peers on vocabulary, grammar, and verbal memory. Research has also shown that where children have delays in understanding and expression together, they can struggle with learning to read.
It is not possible for you to know in advance (the get go) that your child is going to be a late bloomer. It is definitely not a good idea to take a chance on the possibility of them growing out of it. It is hard to predict who will grow out of it and who won’t. The children who are at greatest risk for now growing out of it are those where there is a family history of language delay, where their comprehension is also delayed, and where they use few gestures.
3. Selective Mutism
Selective mutism is an anxiety-based condition. It is an excessive fear of being heard or seen speaking in select situations. It develops most commonly in the early school years, a time when other common phobias, such as a fear of the dark, closed space etc. emerge. All kids with selective mutism feel less comfortable speaking in various situations, but where and how they speak varies from child to child. Some kids with selective mutism speak everywhere, but the quality of their speech varies. They may use fewer words, speak softly or only whisper.
Typically, these kids speak more freely at home with immediate family and are less comfortable speaking at school, the grocery store etc. Many kids with selective mutism are misunderstood, some are seen as being oppositional or defiant, but really they just can’t speak because they are paralyzed by intense anxiety, they may even have toileting accidents because they don’t want to attract attention by visiting the washroom.
4. Delayed speech
Delayed speech is another factor that could be preventing your child from speaking just yet. A child with a speech delay might use words and phrases to express ideas but be difficult to understand, pronunciations and words combinations is usually a problem for such a child. Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. This could go away on its own or with some extra help.
How to Help Your Child
Your child is not the only one with this situation, however, the cause responsible for your child’s situation may vary from that of another child. So, your first step in helping your child is to figure out what exactly is the cause of your child’s lack of speech. it could be delayed speech, selective mutism, etc. Figuring this out is your first step, it determines what happens next.
1. Talk to your child
Your baby begins communicating with your long before he can talk by crying, smiling, or responding to you. It is never too early to talk with your baby, sing to your baby and read to your baby. The best way for babies to learn to communicate is by face to face communication with others, starting with you.
2. Reassure your child
Parents have to play a key and front-line role in intervening and supporting their children. They have to take the lead in educating, encouraging and reassuring their kids especially kids with selective mutism. Encouraging your child to speak doesn’t necessarily mean you have to blabber to him all the time; instead, you use simple words and gestures to help him adopt words and ways to express himself.
3. Talk to an Expert
Take your child to a speech pathologist as soon as you can. The earlier you figure out what is specifically stopping your child from speaking, the easier it would be for you to be able to help him. He will probably have to go through a series of tests to see what is wrong and where, because sometimes this could be connected to other developmental issues in the child.
This is important because it will help you and give you an idea of where to start from and what factors to focus on in order to help your child. The sooner this is done, the better, like all developmental stages, challenges are inevitable but will have to always find a way to navigate these challenges with your child. You are the first and best support your child has, you have to always be there, and never give up or discourage him. As far as your child has you, he can conquer anything and everything that comes his way.