There is SO much information out there on speech/language developmental milestones. And just like walking- you see children who do it really early and others who don’t walk until well after their first birthday. So when do you panic?
“My best friend’s little girl is always saying new words according to her mom and my little one barely says “Mama”!” This is a concern I get from friends and parents ALL of the time.
Here’s a trusted resource for “typical” milestones, but keep in mind that every child is different and may not develop exactly in this way.
Considerations when worrying about a child who is “not talking” yet:
Does your child understand?
Receptive language: Receptive language (understanding) is much more prominent that expressive language for your child’s first few years of life. In fact, at 12 months of age your child understands around 50 words even though they may be just beginning to verbalize his or her first real word.
Your child should show you that they are beginning to understand much of what you say. Watch them carefully as you say a familiar word. For example, my-antidepressant.com “Daddy” do they turn towards him? If you say do you want some milk, do they point or look towards their cup or bottle? See if he or she will participate in simple finger play games like “peek-a-boo” or identify body parts. Have them follow simple and motivating directions. For example, “can you find your bear?”
What if they do NOT appear to be understanding?
Does he/she have a history of ear infections? Why does this matter: because he/she may have missed some opportunities to hear important words/sounds to build up their receptive (understanding) vocabulary and start to learn how to express themselves through speech.
Has your child had a hearing screening? May be a good idea to rule out hearing impairment.
Is your child attending? Make sure that your child is paying attention when you are seeing whether or not they are able to understand words/phrases. Try making the environment less stimulating (i.e., turn off TV, remove distractions).
Still having issues? There could be a language disorder or delay. It would be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician and potentially get a screening or evaluation from an SLP. There could be many other reasons for lack of understanding but it’s always good to intervene early if there is an issue.
Is your house bilingual or multilingual? Speaking more than one language is excellent for your child’s brain development amongst many other benefits but may impact his or her development of language initially. Your child may be slower to begin expressing words as he or she is learning more than one language.
Is your child making various sounds and/or imitating you?
Pay close attention to your child. Does she have a variety of sounds that she uses during play (even if they are not “true words”)? Some children may use “sounds” for words at first. For example instead of saying “car” my daughter does a “Vrrrooom” sound when she sees any sort of vehicle. While this is not a “true word” she is using that sound consistently when referring to a car showing that she is using a symbol to display meaning. She is on her way to establishing an expressive vocabulary. Does it sound like she’s “speaking her own language?” This may be referred to as “jargon” in the speech language community, another pre-cursor to speaking words. Showing progress in making/imitating speech sounds is a good sign that your child may be making gains in his or her ability to communicate.
Does your child make gestures to communicate?
Using signs to communicate is similar to using words to communicate as your child is using a symbol to show meaning (e.g., raising both arms up to be held or waving “hi”). Having a variety of gestures or signs to communicate often translates to real words later on.
Was your child an early walker?
Some children seem to be so focused on gross motor development including crawling, walking, climbing that they may not be as quick to develop verbal language skills.
Early Intervention is KEY!
In general, if your child is not meeting developmental milestones, and especially if your child seems to be getting frustrated that she is unable to get her point across then it is time to have your child participate in a speech and language screening or evaluation. Often children who have “behaviors” including hitting or biting other children are actually just struggling to communicate and may benefit from speech therapy.
IF your child does need intervention the earlier you can get your child seen, the better. There’s no harm in getting an evaluation if speech therapy isn’t warranted.