Studies proved that children master different language skills at different ages. Per Dr. Anna Kaplan, most children speak their first word between 10 to 14 months of age – cooing and babbling in the 1st year of life is evident among children. However, if your 14 months baby isn’t talking, there’s no need to worry – the majority of this case is children developing language skills later than others. This might be the case for your baby. For your inner peace, though, have your baby professionally checked – early detection is important.
Congratulations, it’s been more than a year – you and your baby are doing great. I know you are excited about your baby’s milestones, and at this point, you can’t stop feeling giddy but worried at the same time – you can’t simply stop yourself from comparing your baby with others of the same age. Like, why is your baby still not talking, unlike others?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the first 3 years of your child’s life is the most active time for learning speech and language. So let me dissect it as follows.
- By 6 months – most infants recognize the sounds of basic language.
- At 12-15 months – even if unclear, infants can say 2-3 simple words.
- By 18 months – your child is expected to utter several words.
- Over time, when your child is 3 years old, he/she can speak in brief sentences.
Remember, if your child is showing difficulties with speech-language skills, this doesn’t always mean a speech-language delay or problem, but if the difficulties persist. Your child is showing more risks – you may need to seek professional support.
I’m telling you, figuring out if your child is only taking a bit longer to talk or if there’s a problem is, in fact – difficult. But, as parents, you know your children best, and it’s your responsibility to realize just when your children need help.
Now, you’re more worried as time goes by and the fact that you’re here, you probably want answers – keep going then, this article might help.
1-2 years’ language milestones
As babies grow, they will mostly achieve important developmental milestones – the things that your child can do by a certain age.
Among these milestones is achieving speech-language skills. Note that these skills aren’t all about making sounds and words. Being able to hear and comprehend is also part of the package – it’s both receptive and expressive.
It’s difficult to tell when exactly children are learning the language skills, but here’s a simple guide per healthline.com for your reference.
- 1-3 months
- Begins to coo and make simple vowel sounds
- Becomes calm when spoken to
- Cries differently for different needs
- 4-6 months
- Begins to babble or imitate sounds
- Those contagious beautiful laughs
- Make single-syllable sounds like “ba” then to “ba ba ba”
- 5-9 months
- Responds to hearing their names – may add consonant sound to vowels
- May communicate with gestures9-12 months
- Points his/her fingers – knows what “no” means
- Imitates sounds and gestures
- 12-18 months
- Knows how to say several words
- Says “no” and waves bye-bye
- Often say his/her first words with meaning like “dada” and “mama”
- 18 months
- Knows several words
- Follows simple directions
- Likes hearing short stories or songs
- 24 months
- May ask simple questions
- Follows simple instructions like “come here” or “sit down”
- Getting better with words and their meaning.
- Uses simple two-word phrases like “more milk”
- Says the names of familiar people
Witnessing my little boy discovered sounds and played with words was truly 1 of the reasons why the pain and struggles of my pregnancy were all worth it.
Him, trying to communicate using gestures like waving and pointing and finally saying his first words is indeed heartwarming and fulfilling – 1 of the magical moments I had as a mother.
Potential cause of delay
So what may cause a speech-language delay? The causes are not always known, but studies reveal that this delay might be due to the following factors:
- An oral impairment – like problems with the tongue or the roof of the mouth
- Limited tongue movement – may be due to shorter fold of the tongue
- An oral-motor problem – a problem in the brain responsible for speech that makes it hard to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw to make sounds
- Hearing problems – those with a hearing problem may also have trouble in speaking, understanding, imitating, and using language in general
- Ear infections – can also affect hearing. Excessive use of pacifiers can cause ear infections.
- Lack of environmental stimulation – child’s environment can influence his/her speech-language skills
- Autism, intellectual issues, and some neurological issues
Stephen Camarata, a speech pathologist, emphasized that late talking is not caused by poor parenting, vaccinations, environmental toxins, or lack of nutrients.
He added that parents like you must understand that you didn’t cause your child’s late talking – there’s no need for you to be guilty at all.
Motivating early development in children
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) published that children’s speech-language development depends on the following:
- His/her natural ability to learn the language
- Other skills that he/she is learning at the same time
- How much talking he/she hears during the day
- How people respond to what he/she says or does
Relatively, you and the other people surrounding your child are undoubtedly factors in developing your child’s speech-language skills. Focus on teaching your child to talk, and appropriate environmental stimulation is also important.
How you can encourage speech-language development at home:
- Talk to your baby, sing, and influence your child to mimic sounds and gestures
- Read to your child. Reading books and sharing stories is good for language development.
- Maximize every situation you have. While doing your chores, speak and try to explain what you’re doing to your child.
- Start a conversation despite him/her not talking back. Please avoid “baby talk”, instead use proper or real words.
- Respond when your child communicates – expand on their responses too.
- Don’t rush him/her when trying to use words – listen patiently.
- Teaching your child sign language may help your child feel confident in communication.
- Name items game – ask your child to name any object you have nearby.
- Limit screen time – physical interactions are best than staring at a screen.
- Maintain eye contact when you talk to him/her – this will enhance learning.
Warnings in a baby’s speech-language development
The stereotypes of “don’t worry, he’ll outgrow it,” or the “wait and see” approach, or “every child develop uniquely” secondary to late-talking is not always correct.
I mean, yes, the speech-language development is unique. Still, experts noted that certain developmental milestones per specific age – while some children can catch up, others don’t – then it’s a cause of concern.
The webmd.com published that about 15%-25% of young children have communication disorder and children between 18-30 months who have a good understanding of language, developing motor skills, thinking skills, and social skills but have limited spoken words for their age are considered “late talkers.”
Research determined that late talkers are more likely:
- 13 % of 2-year-old children
- Have a family history of early language delay
- Male and are born at less than 37 weeks gestation.
- Attention problems
- Old maternal age at birth
- Lower socioeconomic status
Studies proved that many late talkers could catch up (sometimes they are called “late bloomers”). For most, it’s simply a developmental stage that children are passing through without long-lasting adverse impacts – but it’s also evident that others don’t “grow out of it.”
Lauren Lowry, a speech-language pathologist of Hanen Centre, identified the following risk factors which suggest a child’s continuing speech-language difficulties.
- He/she is quiet as an infant, little babbling
- With a known history of ear infections
- Have a limited number of consonant sounds
- Doesn’t link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
- Doesn’t imitate words
- Uses mostly nouns (names) and few verbs (action words)
- Difficulty playing with peers (poor social skills)
- Known family history of communication delays
- Displays understanding delay vs age
- Uses few gestures to communicate
Speech delay, developmental delay, and autism
Speech delay is not specific to autism – this also is present in children with a global developmental delay caused by intellectual disability and those with severe hearing loss.
Children with speech delay or hearing loss can usually communicate using nonverbal communication skills such as gestures, eye contact, and facial expression. They can also respond to praise, imitate, and engage in make-believe play, and can empathize – while these concerns continue for a child with autism.
How important is an appropriate intervention?
If you suspect your child is indeed “talking late” or is showing symptoms of speech-language delay, early intervention is necessary. Know that late talking is considered a symptom of language-related problems and may impact learning difficulties in school.
Speech-language pathologist – Debora Downey said that oral language is the foundation for all academic areas, including reading, writing, and math – she added, the more time passes before help is provided, the weaker the foundation for your child.
Speech therapy is typically used to address problems in understanding and producing language and speech sounds.
How to know if your child’s development is on track?
If you’re lucky enough to be with your child throughout the day, then you will probably notice the little changes and achievements they made from time to time.
Your child’s development milestones like taking the first step, smiling, giggling, pointing their fingers, and waving “bye-bye” are reached by how they discover the physical world in general – with you and their caregivers’ support.
Guided by the reference you learned about a child’s developmental milestones – what’s normal and not – you will be equipped to see the achievements as expected, the signs of delays, and just when you need to act early – again, early detection is important.
My baby reverted to “baby talk” – what to do?
Sometimes, a traumatic event or mental health issue or perceived crisis, or significant change like the birth of a sibling – can trigger a child to regress.
Dr. Carol Anne Murphy said children use all sorts of behaviors to give messages – it might be a means of getting attention or reflect a need for reassurance and nurturing.
If your child reverts to earlier patterns like speaking shorter or babbling instead of saying real words, it’s best to focus on responding to your child in a mature communication – convey that they are mature enough to talk properly.
Avoid setting up the scenario for it to be repeated, like giving too much attention to it by punishing or reprimanding your child. Instead, if your child regresses because of their new sibling, reassure them by giving lots of hugs, kisses, and love.
Do boys talk later than girls?
If your little boy is lagging in his speech-language development, don’t panic – it’s normal. Accordingly, boys say their first words and sentences a few months later than girls.
Researchers said that girls tend to be on the earlier end while boys on the later end – secondary to acquiring speech-language milestones.
Data also showed that the incidence of speech-language impairment is higher among boys than girls – a ratio from 2:1 to 3:1 for that matter. In addition, while not all twins have speech-language delays, twins are at greater risk – particularly male twins.
In addition, the incidence of autism in boys is 4 times more common than in girls.
Hearing your child say his first few words is exciting, and knowing your child is doing okay is bliss. But for some, it’s discouraging when you realize your child doesn’t reach his developmental milestone as expected.
But even if your child experiences some speech-language delays, this doesn’t always mean a serious problem. What is vital to know is every child grows and develops at an individual pace – but be mindful that while child development is very individual, there are significant milestones that should be reached by a specific age.
Find out if your child is a late talker or has a language delay. As parents, it’s important to recognize when your child needs help and provide developmental intervention to aid the problems.
Early detection is always a better choice than feeling sorry secondary to parents being in “denial” trying to rationalize “my child is just taking a bit longer to talk.”
I hope you find this article helpful. Remember to take it easy.