Delayed Speech

Delayed Speech – When to be Concerned

Every parent is excited to hear their child speak for the first time. Even a single word from your child brings a lot of joy and excitement. But when your child doesn’t speak for long, it becomes a sign of concern for parents.

Many children learn to speak later than others, but it is not always a concerning factor. Even if they speak a few months late, they catch-up soon and begin to speak like early learners. Let’s find out when parents should be concerned about their child’s speech problem and what they can do to help their children.

Normal Speech Development

In order to help your child, you first need to understand the basics of speech development and how long it takes for children to learn to speak. Sometimes, children are late bloomers, which doesn’t mean that there is a problem that you should be concerned about. Check the age-wise speech development process and get a better idea of the problem that your child is facing.

Under 12 Months

A baby begins to learn different sounds from the surroundings just after birth. They hear the different sounds and connect them to make cooing sounds. They will babble most of the times, which is a sign that shows that they are trying to learn, and can be counted in speech development. Towards the end of their first year, most children will be able to say words like ‘mama’ and ‘Dada.

Between 12 to 15 Months

This is the age when children begin to babble in different sounds using a wide range of words. They will also try to copy the words that you say.

Between 18-24 Months

When your toddler is 18 months old, they will begin to say a few words. At this age, they will also try to make short sentences by combining two words.

This clearly shows what you need to expect from your child in terms of speech. If your child is not showing signs of learning, you should definitely be concerned and meet with a children’s speech specialist. You know there is a problem when a child doesn’t even understand what is being said. Furthermore, if a child is unable to speak clearly or only uses two to three words, it means that they have a problem with speech.

Delayed Speech – When to be Concerned

Why do Speech Delays Occur?

Speech delays mostly occur in children who have heredity problems. Sometimes, children are unable to learn to speak because their parents answer questions on their behalf, without letting them say anything. There are some other reasons that result in speech delays. Let’s take a look at them below:

Chronic Ear Infections

A child with chronic ear infection is more likely to be a late bloomer. This happens when fluid gathers in the ear for several months resulting in poor hearing. When a child is unable to hear properly, they have troubles learning to speak.

Pre-Mature Births

Pre-mature birth means that your child’s body and organs are not fully developed. Therefore, there are always some health problems in children born pre-maturely. Speech delay in pre-mature births mostly occurs in multiples. Low birth weight and medicinal use can affect speech development.

Language Disorder

Children with language disorder have a hard time speaking because of abnormal brain activity. Such children have trouble copying different sounds and understanding what others say.

Children learn two languages

When the parents are from two different countries, a child has troubles choosing between the languages, which results in delayed speech.

Environmental Deprivation

If a child is born in a home where everyone abuses each other, there is a high chance that the child will be unable to speak. This also happens when the people around children do not speak and they don’t get to learn anything.


A child with autism might have a hard time learning to communicate or speak.

Structural Problems

If a child’s cleft lip or cleft palate is not structured properly, then the child will be unable to speak properly.

Neurological Problems

A child suffering from neurological problems is more likely to have speech delays. The impact that some diseases have on the brain might affect a child’s ability to learn and speak.

How to Help a Child with Delayed Speech

If your child doesn’t learn to speak till 2 ½ years of age, you should get them checked by a speech specialist. With the help of a therapist, you will be able to fix the problem and help your child learn. The specialist will make sure that the child doesn’t have a disorder that is causing the delay. If there is an ear infection, the specialist will treat it, which will solve the problem. Your pediatrician can also recommend a speech-language pathologist for your child.

You will also need to talk to your child more often. By constantly asking them questions, you will make it easier for them to pick up the language and begin speaking. A good way to speed up your child’s learning process is to read stories to them. You should also ask open-ended questions to encourage them to answer.

Sometimes, children find it hard to develop speaking skills because they are brought-up in a socially deprived environment. So, always keep your child indulged in social activities and allow them to speak to you. You should also be careful to not answer everything for your child. If you tell them ‘you needed this’, then they will never learn to ask you. If your child babbles and tries to copy your words at 12 months of age, then this is a positive sign that they are learning. But if they do not show signs of learning, then get them checked without hesitating about it.

Some children are slow at learning while others learn to speak pretty early. Unless your child doesn’t speak till the time they are 2 1/2, there is nothing to worry about. If you are worried about the pace of their learning, you should meet with your child’s pediatrician and discuss the problems with him/her. The more aware you are, the better it is for the child.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.

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