Baby Talk: Speech Development and Your Child

One of the biggest concerns that all parents share is whether or not their children are developing at a normal pace. The first two years of a child’s life is the most critical, after all. Especially when it comes to speech and language development, which is why parents await their child’s first words so eagerly. For some kids, however, these first words never seem to come, which begs the question most parents (especially first-time parents) will ask of themselves – is something wrong with my child?

Most who seek the advice of friends and family are told the same thing – that many children who never said a word until the age of 3 end up just fine later in life. They are told that this is a normal phase that will pass. So, is it?

How to know if your child is simply a late bloomer, or if it’s something more? 

Baby books abound will tell young parents what their child SHOULD be doing at every stage of their life. A summary of different websites and books show that these are the milestones that display normal speech and language development:

6 months: Can babble and turn to look at new sounds.
8 months: Responds to being called by their name.
10 months: Is able to shout for attention and repeat one syllable.
12 months: Says up to 2 words and can imitate familiar sounds.
12-17 months: Can understand simple instructions, imitate familiar words and use simple words like “yes,” “no,” “mama” and “papa.”
18 months: Begins to combine words into short phrases to express what they want. They can use up to 20 words.
2-2 ½ years: Can speak in short sentences and ask questions, has a growing vocabulary of more than 400 words and can form plurals.
3 years: Is able to tell a story and speak longer sentences (3-4 words). Has a vocabulary of around 1,000 words.
4 years: Can speak 4-5 word sentences and has a basic understanding of past/present/future tense. Is able to speak about ideas (i.e. hopes and dreams) as well as things.

Don’t panic if none of the above reflects your child’s current development. Milestones, funnily enough, are not actually set in stone. Your kid may just be a late bloomer, also known as a Late Talker.

As described by the Hanen Centre, a Late Talker is “a toddler between 18-30 months old who has a good understanding of language but has a limited spoken vocabulary for his or her age.” Other than that, everything else would seem normal, such as their play, motor, thinking and social skills. Most turn out to be perfectly able communicators in their adulthood.

Having said that, if you have a strong gut feeling that something is wrong, developmentally, with your child, follow it and seek the help of a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT) – especially if:

By 12 months your child doesn’t:
  • babble with changes in tone
  • use gestures like waving “bye-bye” or shaking head for “no”
  • make eye contact or respond to his/her name
  • communicate in some way when he/she needs help with something
By 18 months your child doesn’t:
  • use at least 10 single words like “mummy” or “up”
  • respond with a word or gesture to questions such as “What’s that?” or “Where’s your shoe?”
  • point to major body parts like head, nose eyes and feet
By 24 months your child doesn’t:
  • understand simple commands like “don’t touch”
  • imitate actions or words
  • say more than 100 words
  • cnsistently join two words together like “daddy go” or “eat rice”
What to do if your child is a Late Talker.

If your toddler fits the criteria above, it’s never too early to consult a SLT about your concerns. The earlier your child can begin therapy, the better the results. It also wouldn’t hurt to have your child’s hearing checked. Even if you don’t suspect any hearing impairment, at such a young age, even a slight one can cause difficulties in his/her speech and language development.

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