Every child develops at his own pace and if your child doesn’t speak as well as other children of the same age, it does not necessarily mean that there is a problem. It is normal for toddlers (18 months to 3 years) to make mistakes. For example, using the wrong sounds or words (“Me want mow duice”) usually disappears by two and a half to three and a half years of age. Deleting a sound (saying “pay” instead of “play”) is quite common in children younger than age 3.
Over time, the child’s speech will become easier to understand and more grammatically correct. But the following warning signs could mean that your child has a delay that requires treatment.
By 12 months, she doesn’t use gestures like waving or shaking her head.
By 15 months, he can’t say simple words like Daddy or no clearly or unclearly.
By 18 months, she doesn’t understand simple instructions, like “give me the ball”.
By 2 years old, he can’t join two words together (“Mommy come”).
By 3 years old, she can’t speak in short sentences.
His speech is not understood by strangers, at least most of the time. A stranger should be able to understand the child’s speech about 50% of the time at 2 years, about 75% of the time at age 3, and nearly 100% of the time by age 4.
What causes language delay?
Most of the time the cause of the speech or language delay is not known. For some children, the cause may be genetic because speech and language problems tend to run in families. In other cases, the cause of the language delay is hearing impairment – either a permanent hearing loss or more frequently the temporary hearing loss associated with ear infections. In rarer cases, the cause of the delay is secondary to something else such as a cleft palate, autism or cerebral palsy.
The good news is, most language delays can be treated successfully, especially if speech therapy is started when the child is very young.
What can you do if you suspect your child has a language delay?
Speech-language pathologists are trained to evaluate and treat speech and language delays. Your family doctor or Paediatrician can refer you to a Speech-Language Pathologist or you may contact the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.
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