When a child is not talking at 3 years of age, it is a cause of concern for his or her parents. Most 2 year olds are able to say up to 50 words and they can also say words in two or three sentences. So by the age of three years, your child must be able to say about 1000 words and speak in longer sentences.
Apart from the fact that children develop at their own speed, it will still be recognized as a speech delay if at three your child is not able to speak. Do not be alarmed, when your toddler has speech delay, it doesn’t automatically mean something is medically wrong, your child might just be a late learner.
But in other cases, cause of speech delay may be as a result of hearing loss, developmental disorder or underlying neurologist.
Difference between speech delay and language delay
Speech delay and language delay and not the same problem, but because they are sometimes difficult to differentiate, people tend to believe they are the same. The difference between speech and language delay are;
Speech is forming of words and sounds physically using the mouth/speaking. When a toddler has speech delay, they won’t be able to form the right sounds which will come out as words no matter how much they try. Speech delay does not have anything to do with nonverbal communication or comprehension.
Language delay is simply communication, compression and understanding both verbal and nonverbal. Toddlers with language delay may be able to make sounds, but they won’t be able to produce reasonable sentences or phrases and some might have difficulty understanding words and letters.
Child Not Talking At 3
How to recognize speech delay in your toddler
A child’s speech begins few months after they are born, starting from when they begin to coo as infant. The older they get, those meaningless uncoordinated words being to make sense until they make their first meaningful word/sentence.
When you know your toddler has speech delay is when him or her hasn’t met or passed any of the speech millstone. However, not all children are the same, and different children develop at different time rate. So it is not really a huge deal if your child is a little late with their speech.
There are certain things an average 3 or 4 year old child should be able to do at their age. Below are the speech millstones which a 3 to 4 year olds should pass.
- A toddler should be able to make use of up to 1000 words.
- A toddler should be able to pronounce his or her name.
- A toddler should be able to call other people by their names.
- A toddler should be able to use simple nouns, verbs and adjectives to form a simple sentence with at least three to four words.
- A toddler should be able to form plurals.
With this said, toddlers are able to speak well enough. People who stay with toddlers the most are usually able to understand every single thing they say. And up to about 80% of toddlers 3 to 4 years are able to speak properly around strangers, and the strangers are able to understand what the toddlers are saying all the time.
Speech delay cues
When you have a baby, and your baby hasn’t started cooing at 2months, this is an early sign of speech delay in an infant. When a child is about 1 year and 6 months old, they will be able to start saying words like mama or papa. Below are Signs of speech delay in toddlers ;
- When at age two your child can’t make use of 25 words at maximum.
- When your child cannot use a nonverbal combination or a two word phrase at 2 years and 6 months.
- When your child does not use up to 300 different words, they do not ask for what they want with its name at 3 years of age.
- When at 3 years you find it extremely difficult to understand what him or her is saying even when you spend much time with them.
- When at 4 years of age him or her is not able to remember previously learned vocabulary or sentence.
Causes of speech delay?
Most times, speech delay just simply mean a child is slow in development and pronunciation of words. But sometimes, speech delay can also show a child’s overall intellectual and physical developmental ability. Causes of speech delay are;
Mouth problems: A cause of speech delay can be a mouth, palate or tounge problem. Some children may have a condition such as ankyloglossia in other words tounge tie, where the tounge seems tied to the base of the mouth, which will make the creation of some sounds hard, e.g D, Z, T, R, S, L, TH.
Hearing loss: A toddler who cannot hear properly will most likely find it difficult to speak well. If you are wondering if your child has hearing loss, you can confirm it when your child does not know an object or a person when you call them by name but acknowledge them when you make use of gestures or pictures. Cues of Hearing loss can be very little and almost invisible and speech delay might be the only sign.
Lack of stimulation: Even very quiet people or children will speak to you when you engage them in conversations. If a child lacks stimulation on conversations, emotional or physical abuse, parental neglect, then him or her may find it difficult to reach speech millstones.
Intellectual disorder: Speech delay can also be caused by intellectual disorder in situations where your child is not speaking at all. It can be a result of a cognitive problem and not inability to produce words.
Other causes of speech delay also include;
Echolalia, impaired social interaction, Receptive behaviors, speech and language regression, Impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, neurological problem.
How to know if your child has speech delay
Confirming if your child has speech delay can be difficult and tricky because every child develop at their own time and pace, especially when you do not know if it is speech delay or language disorder. You will simply have to take your child to a pediatrician for accurate confirmation.
Your pediatrician will ask questions on the capabilities of your child’s in speech and language development, and also other general behaviors. Your child’s tongue, mouth and palate will be examined, Your child’s hearing abilities will also be checked, even if him or her seems to respond to sounds this is to be sure your child does not have hearing loss which will make words sound muffled.
After the examination has been done, depending on the outcome you may be referred to other specialists such as; Speech language pathologist, Neurologist, Audiologist for further examinations and conclusion.
Treatment or Therapy for speech delay in toddlers
In cases where the speech delay in your toddler is only as a result of developmental delay, the only treatment that will be needed is speech therapy or treatment. If you have been given other treatment plans, you can still carry on with the speech or language therapy treatment, it will also make both treatment effective and speed up recovery. Most times the speech delay therapist will communicate with your toddler directly for the treatment.
It has been proven in a research that a toddler with speech or language delay within 2 years and six months and 5 years will lead to that child having a hard time with reading when they start elementary school. When a child has speech delay, him or her will find it difficult to interact with other children which may lead to behavioral problems. When your child has been given a diagnosis by a doctor at 3 or 4 year old, then him or her will be qualified for an early intervention service before they start elementary school.
Some times speech delay does not concern any underlying condition, but other times it does or is a result of a previously existing disorder, and when this is the case, it will be better to see to those pending issues first, such issues may include; Problem with the mouth or tongue, hearing difficulties, neurological disorder, Loneliness or depression.
What can I do to help my toddler with speech delay?
Of course, as a parent you won’t be able to sit down and do nothing knowing your child is slacking behind in life. There are a few things you can do at home that will help your toddler pick up on his speech which are;
- You should start spending more time with your toddler and make sure to talk to him or her while you two are together.
- When you ask for something or about some one, do so with gestures or pictures, that way your toddler may be able to recognize an object or a person with names.
- Reading to your toddler, not just night time stories when him or her is already sleepy, do more reading during the day, do use books with pictures in them.
- Singing to your toddler, simple songs or rhymes that will be easy for your toddler to repeat and remember.
- Try harder when they try to talk to you or tell you something, and respond to their questions as best as you can.
- Start letting your toddler speak for themselves, whenever you are out and a stranger ask them something such as what is your name do not answer for them.
- Even if you already know what they want, do not give it to them allow them ask for it themselves.
Consistency is key and when you keep doing this, your child is likely to pick up on speech. Do not over do it, or force your child to talk, or start with holding food and forcing them to ask for food or the toilet, this may pave way for other very serious problems than speech delay.
Most times its just that your child is late in reaching speech millstones or is a very quiet child and nothing is medically wrong, so do not panic, assume the worst or force things, if anything is wrong, then your pediatrician is most likely to let you know.