Let me please begin this article by first saying that we all must remember that every child is undeniably different, so please use caution when comparing your child with other children. I understand it is hard to ignore when other children are doing far more than your own child is doing, however children progress at different rates developmentally.
Now that that has been said, I also don’t want the wrong message to be sent to anyone reading this. I do believe that if you have your doubts that your child is not reaching developmental milestones and has some delays that you reach out to find the “correct” professional to determine if there truly is a delay present and if intervention is recommended. I no longer can even count how many times I have heard parents share that their doctor has recommended the “watch & see” approach with children with delayed speech and language. So when in doubt, follow your instincts and persist in being proactive. Ask your doctor for a referral for a speech-language pathologist to do a consult and/or an evaluation for your child. Perhaps word it like this “I am interested in ruling out a speech and language disorder with a speech-language pathologist who is specially trained and/or highly qualified in this area”. This does not sound demanding, but rather as if you are reaching out for help.
I feel parents need to always be their child’s best advocate and parents should be aware of potential reasons why your toddler may be delayed in speech and language development. Here is a list of some reasons I have had first-hand experience witnessing over the last decade of my practice that contributed to toddler delayed talkers:
1. Multiple languages in the home- These children are learning so much simultaneously that they sometimes do not begin trying to use any language until they feel confident in most of each language they are exposed to in their home.
2. Caregiver/Sibling Anticipation- Often family members and caregivers anticipate what the
child needs and just gives the child what it wants without making typical requests for it. The child needs and wants are being met and they do not have a reason to try to even and speak.
3. Multiple ear infections/Hearing difficultly- Children with chronic ear infections result in
having too much fluid in the ears distorting how they hear speech sounds and sounds in
general. This then negatively effects the child’s receptive and expressive language skills. It has
the ability to impact their foundation for their education.
4. Shifting their focus- Sometimes children become focused on some preferred and
activities become very skilled at them, however it makes them over concentrate on only what they like. These children just are not interested or motivated in listening to an adult trying to interact with them because they are more than content playing on their own.
All of these reasons can be improved at home if they are correctly addressed. And for some of those doctors recommending the “watch & see” approach to toddlers delayed in talking, there are times that this approach does work out where children do begin speaking without any speech therapy treatment. Remember, you can always ask your doctor for a referral to “rule out” a speech and language disorder. It really is and should be all based on an individual basis.