Your son is 2 years old and still isn’t talking. He says a few words, but compared with his peers you think he’s way behind. You remember that his sister could put whole sentences together at the same age. Hoping he will catch up, you postpone seeking professional advice. Some kids are early walkers and some are early talkers, you tell yourself. Nothing to worry about…
This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak. Unless they observe other areas of “slowness” during early development, parents may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that “he’ll outgrow it” or “she’s just more interested in physical things.” After all, wasn’t Einstein late to talk? This can be a very confusing situation for parents who want to do the best for their child.
Whilst it is important to recognize that every child is unique and develops at his/her own pace, knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development will assist you in making a decision regarding referral to a speech and language therapist. Below is a chart of “typical” language development in children.
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT CHART
|AGE OF CHILD
||TYPICAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
| 6 – 8 months
- Vocalization with intonation
- Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
- Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones
- Enjoys social games like peek- a- boo
- Babbling sounds include p, b, m
- Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
- Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
- Practices inflection
- Is aware of the social value of speech
- Responds to name
- Has a vocabulary of 10-20 words.
- Produces more than 5 consonant sounds, like m, w, n, p, and b.
- Begins to use two words together (“mommy shoe” meaning “mommy’s shoe”).
- Points to some body parts
- Follows simple commands (“Give me the ball”).
- Pretend play beginning.
|2 years (24 months)
- Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
- Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
- Rhythm and fluency often poor
- Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
- Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused
- My and mine are beginning to emerge
- Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”
- Puts many actions together during play like stirring, pouring, scooping, and feeding a doll.
|3 years (36 months)
- Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
- Is using some plurals and past tenses
- Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
- Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
- Handles three word sentences easily
- Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
- About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
- Verbs begin to predominate
- Begins to use negative words – no, can’t don’t
- Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
- Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
- Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
- Should be able to give his sex, name, age
- Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected
- Asks lots of questions.
- Most regular and irregular past tense verbs are used correctly.
- Understands most questions but has difficulty answering “how” and “why.”
- Can retell stories and recent past events.
- Uses the pronouns: they, us, hers, his, them, her, its, our, him, myself, ours, their, theirs, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
- Knows names of familiar animals
- Can use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands
- Knows one or more colors
- Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly
- Can usually repeat words of four syllables
- Demonstrates understanding of over and under
- Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established
- Often indulges in make-believe
- Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities
- Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented
Many late talkers do “grow out of it,” but many do not. It can be difficult to predict which children will not catch up to their peers. However, a list of risk factors has been identified, which suggest that a child is more likely to have continuing language difficulties. These include:
- quiet as an infant; little babbling
- a history of ear infections
- Limited number of consonant sounds (e.g., p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
- does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
- does not imitate (copy) words
- uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
- difficulty playing with peers (poor social skills)
- a family history of communication delay, learning disabilities, or academic difficulties
- a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
- uses few gestures to communicate
What about the group of late talkers who seem to catch up on their own without intervention?
Even though a large percentage of these children appear to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school, studies are showing that this group of children do not perform as well as their peers in certain aspects of language use such as language complexity and grammar.
So, back to my maxim – when in doubt, check it out,