Worried that your toddler hasn’t started speaking yet? Well, the rate of speech development is different for each child. But, these signs should tell you when to consult an expert.
By Dr Anuradha Srinivasan
The word 'Amma' has a special place in Deepti's heart. It was the only word that her son, now a five-year-old, had uttered till he was a toddler. The little boy had a language delay and his parents were worried that he wouldn't speak. After much difficulty and help from a language therapist, he started to communicate like other children of his age.
Children develop at their own pace. This is true of their speech as well. While many babies happily babble “mama”, “dada” well before their first birthday, most toddlers can say about 8–10 words when they are 18 months old. However, if there is a significant lag in the child starting to speak, it could be a cause for concern.
Why does a delay in speech and language cause so much concern among parents and doctors? It is because language development is central to many aspects of a baby’s overall development such as cognition, social interaction and education.
If, as a parent, you suspect that your child’s speech is delayed, you should consult a developmental paediatrician. But there are certain points about speech delay that you need to be aware of first.
If you are worried that your child’s speech is delayed, get help as early intervention is always better. Speech and language pathologists can assess your child and, if there is a need, plan sessions/set goals to work with the child and give you a programme to follow at home.
It should be noted that parents and caregivers play a major role in the stimulation of language skills in babies.
Tips to encourage your baby’s communication from birth till the age of two:
While talking with a child, it is a good idea to use the concept of OWLing.
Observe: What the child wants to communicate
Wait: Give adequate time for the child to respond
Listen: When we listen and pay close attention, we can understand the child’s needs and the child also communicates confidently.
So, choose your goals, engage with your child, talk to her and keep repeating words. Utilise the power of play and music and don’t forget to use the OWL concept. Language delay in children is a common type of developmental delay. The age at which children learn to speak and learn may vary. However, if your child has not started to speak till a certain age, it is always advisable to consult an expert.
The author, an MD (Paediatrics) with a PG DIP in Developmental Neurology, is a renowned developmental paediatrician from Chennai.
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