When a child is not talking at 3 years of age, it is a cause of concern for their parents. Most 2-year-olds can say up to 50 words, and they can also say words in two or three sentences. So by age three, your child must be able to say about 1000 words and speak in longer sentences.
Apart from the fact that children develop at their speed, it will still be recognized as a speech delay if at three your child is not able to speak. So do not be alarmed; when your toddler has a speech delay, it doesn’t automatically mean something is medically wrong; your child might be a late learner.
But in other cases, the cause of speech delay may be hearing loss, developmental disorder, or an underlying neurologist.
Difference Between Speech Delay And Language Delay
Speech and language delay are not the same problem, but people tend to believe they are the same because they are sometimes difficult to differentiate. The difference between speech and language delay are;
Speech is forming of words and sounds physically using the mouth/speaking. When toddlers have a speech delay, they won’t 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. For example, toddlers with language delay may make sounds, but they won’t produce reasonable sentences or phrases, and some might have difficulty understanding words and letters.
How To Recognize Speech Delay In Toddlers
A child’s speech begins a few months after being born, starting from when they begin to coo as infants. Then, the older they get, those meaningless uncoordinated words begin to make sense until they make their first meaningful word/sentence.
When you know your toddler has a speech delay, they haven’t met or passed any speech milestones. However, not all children are the same, and different children develop at a different time rate. So it is not 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 do at their age. Below are the speech milestones 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 their name.
- A toddler should be able to call other people by their names.
- A toddler should use simple nouns, verbs, and adjectives to form a simple sentence with three to four words.
- A toddler should be able to form plurals.
With this said, toddlers can speak well enough. People who stay with toddlers the most are usually able to understand every single thing they say. In addition, about 80% of toddlers between 3 to 4 years can speak properly around strangers.
Child Not Talking At 3 – 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 start saying words like mama or papa. Below are Signs of speech delay in toddlers ;
- At age two, your child can’t make use of 25 words at maximum.
- Your child cannot use a nonverbal combination or two-word phrase at 2 years and 6 months.
- 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.
- At 3 years, you find it extremely difficult to understand what they are saying even when you spend much time with them.
- At 4 years of age, they cannot remember previously learned vocabulary or sentences.
Causes Of Speech Delay?
Most times, speech delay means a child is slow in developing and pronouncing words. But sometimes, speech delay can also show a child’s overall intellectual and physical developmental ability. Causes of speech delay are;
A cause of speech delay can be a mouth, palate, or tongue problem. In addition, some children may have a condition such as ankyloglossia, also called tongue-tie.
When the tongue seems tied to the base of the mouth, it will make the creation of some sounds hard, e.g., D, Z, T, R, S, L, TH.
A toddler who cannot hear properly will most likely find it difficult to speak well. If you wonder 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 use 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. However, if a child lacks stimulation on conversations, emotional or physical abuse, parental neglect, then they may find it difficult to reach speech milestones.
An intellectual disorder can also cause speech delay in situations where your child is not speaking at all. It can result from a cognitive problem and not the inability to produce words.
Other causes of speech delay also include;
Other causes may 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 a speech delay can be difficult and tricky because every child develops at their own time and pace, especially when you do not know if it is speech delay or language disorder. You will have to take your child to a pediatrician for accurate confirmation.
Your pediatrician will ask questions on your child’s speech and language development capabilities and other general behaviors. They will examine your child’s tongue, mouth, palate, and the pediatrician will also check your child’s hearing abilities. Even if they seem to respond to sounds, this is to ensure your child does not have hearing loss, making words sound muffled.
After the examination has been done, depending on the outcome, they may refer you to other specialists such as; Speech-language pathologists, Neurologists, Audiologists for further examinations and conclusions.
Treatment or Therapy for speech delay in toddlers
In cases where the speech delay in your toddler is only a result of developmental delay, the only treatment they will need 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 treatment effective and speed up recovery. In addition, the speech delay therapist will often communicate with your toddler directly for the treatment.
Research has proven 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 a speech delay, they will find it difficult to interact with other children, leading to behavioral problems. When a doctor has given your child a diagnosis at 3 or 4 years old, they will qualify them for an early intervention service before starting elementary school.
Sometimes speech delay does not concern any underlying condition; it usually results from a previously existing disorder. Therefore, it will be better to handle those pending issues when this is the case.
Such issues may include; problems with the mouth or tongue, hearing difficulties, neurological disorder, Loneliness, or depression.
What Can I Do To Help My Toddler With Speech Delays?
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 them while you two are together.
- When you ask for something or about someone, 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 nighttime stories when they are already sleepy, do more reading during the day, do use books with pictures in them.
- Singing simple songs or rhymes to your toddler will be easy 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 asks them something, such as, what is your name? Then, do not answer for them.
- Even if you already know what they want, do not give them to ask for it themselves.
Your child is likely to pick up on speech when consistent with the effort. However, please do not overdo it, force your child to talk, or start withholding food and forcing them to ask for food or the toilet; this may pave the way for other very serious problems than a speech delay.
Most times, it’s just that your child is late in reaching speech milestones 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.