My toddler isn’t talking yet, should I be concerned?
Do you have concerns with your child’s language development? It’s never too early to get help! If you have any concerns with your child’s development, it is best to seek out an evaluation with a trained professional so they can make a skilled determination in whether or not therapy is warranted.
Do you feel conflicted because you feel there are concerns but your doctor told you to “wait and see”?
If you feel your child is not doing something they should at their age, there is no harm in getting a speech evaluation to see your child’s areas of need. The goal is not to keep your child in therapy for their whole life, it’s to provide them with the foundational skills to be a successful communicator. Getting them help earlier provides them more opportunities to practice taught skills and become confident in their communication abilities. Also, because of early synaptic connections, it is best to get help as early as possible.
What are synaptic connections and why is getting help early so important?
The brain of a young child constantly changes due to various stimuli they encounter every day. Stimuli such as the environment, relationships, and life experiences can shape how our brain will react and grow in the future. Our brain works by creating synaptic connections (or pathways for information to travel) as these stimuli are encountered. At birth, we start with 50 trillion connections. By age 3, we have 1000 trillion connections, however as the old saying goes “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. By the time you are an adult, you have about 500 trillion connections. By getting help as early as possible, we can shape those brain connections to support and encourage more successful interactions and development in the long run. What we want to emphasize here is that because the young brain has so much potential and opportunity to develop connections for learning, getting services as soon as possible is an integral component of growth and success.
How can you help at home while waiting for an evaluation?
During the evaluation, your speech-language therapist will provide strategies and discuss ways to facilitate language at home, but in the meantime, you can try these strategies:
- Environment modifications: You can change the environment around you to elicit and encourage more language opportunities. This includes placing items on a high shelf, giving your child a small amount of a preferred item, taking batteries out of a toy, or turning off a toy to encourage requesting.
- Verbal modeling: It’s important to explain your actions during the day and talk out loud as you do a daily routine, such as washing the dishes or laundry. This allows your child to make connections between sounds and actions, and learn that language is purposeful.
- Providing choices: Allowing your child to make choices gives them autonomy and allows them to use language in a new way to get what they are seeking. You can offer your child choices during snack or meal times, during play, or when they are getting dressed for the day.
- Following your child’s lead: During play, it’s important to engage in an activity that’s motivating for your child. If they are focused on a particular activity or toy, then engage in that activity with them. Sharing an experience with a preferred toy creates meaningful connections for your child. Your child may also be more receptive to the actions and the language you model during that play activity.
- Play: Because children naturally play and learn about their world through play, playing with your child is a great way to practice using language! You can blow bubbles, read a book, or stack blocks. As you play, you can make sounds, request for things, or sing songs. These are all wonderful ways to expose your child to rich and meaningful language. Make sure to check out our vlog on the importance of play to learn more about the benefits of engaging your child in play and how valuable language skills are formed through play!
What speech milestones should my toddler be meeting?
Speech sounds develop at different age ranges – however, children are all individuals who learn at their own pace depending on a large array of factors. This is the timeline that we recommend for most sounds:
- By the end of 2 years old, your child should be able to produce h, p, n, d, b, w, m.
- By the end of 3 years old, your child should be able to produce t, f, y, ng, k, g.
- By the end of 4 years old, you should be able to produce ch, l, v, dz, sh, s, z.
- By the end of 5 years old, your child should be able to produce voiced th, zh, r.
It is important to know that at 2 years of age, you should only understand approximately 50% of what your child says. By 4 years old, you should understand approximately 100% of what your child says. While research presents us with these norms, children are all individuals who learn on a sliding scale. Because dialect, cognitive ability, motor ability, and other variables, all play a part in the development of speech sound production, if you have concerns then it is recommended that you bring your child in for a speech-language evaluation to allow a skilled professional to determine if therapy is warranted.
Ricki Abrams-Stern, CCC-SLP and Kayla Warren, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC
In the video below, SLP Kayla answers the questions we hear most commonly for toddlers regarding speech milestones.