My son’s second birthday is coming up next month. I can’t believe that he still hasn’t said his first words. I once heard him say something that sounded like “mama” but I’m not sure he even meant to say it. He is babbling away all the time and in every other way he is a happy, typical little boy. His motor development is good, he’s going up the stairs while hanging on to the handrail, kicking and catching a ball. He is good at making friends and sharing his toys. I told myself I wouldn’t worry, but it seems it’s been a really long time and he’s still not talking. I wonder if he has some sort of speech delay?
Children produce their first words at very different ages. Estimates suggest that around 14 percent of 18 to 24 month olds are still not talking (Horowitz et al. 2003). These children are known as late talkers. While it might be worrying, children who are not talking when they reach their second birthday, may still go on to have completely typical language development. It is often the case however that these children may face difficulties in terms of expressing their feelings and wants and needs. Some questions to ask to ask for a child who is late to talk are:
Does your child engage in imaginary play?
Does she use gestures e.g. pointing waving to communicate?
Does she respond to a direct request? – e.g. go get your nappy
If the answer to all of these is no, it is good idea to speak to your GP if you haven’t already. When meeting with a specialist, you will be asked to provide some background on your child’s speech and general behaviour. It will be helpful if you can provide information on the type of babbling noises your child makes and the words you think she understands. You will also be asked questions about your child’s hearing. This is because hearing impairments can be associated with delayed speech development. Indicators such as whether your child seems to understand you, and whether she uses means of non-verbal communication, such as pointing, will also be helpful. This can give the specialist an idea of your child’s general level of linguistic understanding and flag up any potential for more general speech and language difficulties.