Hearing your child speak his first clear words is one of motherhood’s most precious milestones. But what happens when he's approaching age two or three and the words have not yet come? Is this normal? Should you be concerned?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “Most toddlers master at least fifty spoken words by the end of the second year and can put two words together to form a short sentence." But the Academy also states that if your child doesn't fit this pattern, it isn't necessarily a reason to assume something's wrong: “There are differences among children. Even among those with normal hearing and intelligence, some don’t talk much during the second year."
Postings in various Circle of Moms communities made by moms of toddlers demonstrate that there are indeed vast differences in language development among children in this age range:
At one end of the spectrum are Jenee R.'s 22 month-old, who "uses (the word) 'hot' for everything;" Jeannie W.'s 2 year-old, who understands everything she says to him but "refuses to talk. I think he has about 10-12 words;" and Rhiannon T.'s daughter, who "can only say 'mom, dada, and my personal favorite: 'NONONO'."
At the other end of the spectrum, Melanie B. says that "My two-year-old is bilingual (her dad is Italian) and chatters easily in both languages. She had a vocabulary of about 50 words in each language by 18 months old." And Beth J. says, "My daughter never shuts up!!! She describes everything, she talks to herself when she is playing in her room. There are many times I have to go and look in her room to make sure she is still by herself!"
One mom with a slow-to-talk toddler, Brandi H., says reassuringly that a bit of time is the trick: "My older boy had a hard time with talking until he was about 26 months. He only said 'mama,' 'dada,' 'baba,' 'baby,' and 'Lulu.' Now he's three and his doctor is impressed at how well he talks for his age. I also have a 16-month old boy who already has a 12-word vocabulary and has already said his first sentence. So it really depends on the child."
Moms whose children experience language delays encourage others facing the same dilemma to not worry, but to also seek professional advice.
"I would bring it up with your pediatrician if you are worried," advises Amy G. Her son Kyan did not speak at 24 months of age. She took him to a speech therapist who diagnosed him with childhood apraxia of speech. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assocation, it is a disorder in which "the brain has problems planning to move the body parts — for example, the lips, jaw, and tongue — needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words."
She knew something was wrong, but others told her that his older brother was doing the talking for him, which is not unheard of when an older sibling who can talk is in the picture.
But Amy G. went with her instincts: "It wasn't until I listened to that voice inside my head that we actually got him the help he needs," she admits.
Her proactive approach is what the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests when a parent suspect language delay in their toddler. According to the Academy, one in every ten children has trouble with language comprehension and/or speech.
"Early detection and identification of language delay or hearing impairment is critically important, so treatment can begin before the problem interferes with learning in other areas," the Academy states.
As Nina C. shares, following through with a speech therapist can net quick results for a child trying to gain language: "My 21-month old boy was only saying two words. We got him tested with a speech therapist and he is (indeed) a late talker. We were given some simple exercises to encourage his speech and it has worked," she says. "Within one week, he was using eight words and now he is using around 12 words. Learning more every day."
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