Why Isn’t My Toddler Speaking Yet?

Parents often get concerned if their toddler isn’t speaking when others of the same age are talking away. Is there something wrong? What’s considered normal? Should you seek help?

First, it helps to understand what medical experts consider normal speech development for a toddler. When your toddler was a baby between birth and 3 months, did he/she exhibit the following signs of normal speech development?

* Response to sounds such as smiling at the sound of your voice or increasing suckling
* React to your voice by calming down if upset
* Make cooing sounds

From 4 to 6 months or so, did your baby:

* Turn eyes or head in response to sounds?
* Respond to music?
* Respond to noise-making toys?
* Make verbal sounds to express feelings like excitement?

As your baby approached a year of age, did he/she exhibit these signs of normal speech development?

* Imitation of speech sounds
* Sounding like he/she is trying to say simple words, such as “daddy” or “mama”
* Responding to words you use (“cup,” “ball,” etc.)

Once your toddler begins to move toward the age of two, normal speech development takes the form of comprehension (he/she understands your words and can point to objects and body parts when you identify them), the use of consonants, and putting two words together to express simple ideas (“more drink” or “no ball”). Toddlers between the age of one and two will also enjoy listening to words in the form of stories and rhymes.

As your child approaches the age of three, new words are added to his or her vocabulary every few weeks, and parents can discern clear and exciting progress in their toddler’s speech.

Signs that Help May be Needed

Bearing in mind that children are individuals and the above milestones are based on averages, you might consider seeking speech therapy or similar help if your toddler exhibits little to none of the signs noted above. Other signs that something might be amiss include:

* Frustration and/or tantrums when trying to speak
* Short-term memory seems lacking or non-existent
* Seems to “tune you out” or not hear you when you speak

If you have concerns, your pediatrician can arrange for a hearing test and, if necessary, can direct you to a speech therapist. In the meantime, encourage your toddler to talk with lots of interaction, stimulation, and speech-stimulating games.

Experts agree that reading aloud to your toddler is important for normal speech development, so get out the rhymes and stories and show your toddler the fun and exciting realm of words. This may help him or her get past the “hump” that is delaying his or her speech.

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