Question from a parent:
“My 20mo son is not talking yet and only has baby talk but my friends daughter who’s the same age is starting to put 2-words together. My pediatrician doesn’t seem to be concerned and says to wait until he’s at least 2 years old before panicking. I’m so scared reading all the reasons that a child isn’t saying at least 20-50 words by his age. Is there something wrong with him or will he catch up? Does he have autism if he’s not talking yet?
I’ll answer each question one by one to help clarify everything better.
“My 20-months son is not talking yet and only has baby talk but my friends daughter who’s the same age is starting to put 2-words together”
I would like to start my response by stating that there are gender differences between boys and girls as well as the order in which they were born. In general girls talk much sooner, but develop a little later than boys in their motor skills meanwhile boys are much more active much sooner and talk a little later than girls. Additionally, according to some research, first borns speak sooner and are more verbal at an earlier age than children born second or later. It may sound silly, but children actually understand “children’s language” and while as an adult you struggle to understand what your child wants his older brother/sister has translated and talked for your young one.
“My pediatrician doesn’t seem to be concerned and says to wait until he’s at least 2 years old before panicking.”
This is something I come across almost every day with several clients a day. Unfortunately, many times pediatricians have a “wait and see approach” and many times parents regret this. I have even come across children who presented with autism and their pediatrician had told the parent “don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it!” I have other posts that go over a check list and developmental milestones that you can refer to for your own reference and to assess where your child is compared to his milestones. If you feel in your heart-of-hearts that there’s truly a problem, there probably is. I always tell my parents, therapy never hurt anyone, in fact look at it as a “boost” what do you have to loose? If your child is in need of help, they’re getting the help they need and if they don’t, then they just got a boost and will do even better than they were. It’s a win all around! Often times, parents know more about their children than even the best doctor who only gets a snapshot of your child every few months (and then most of those visits are when he’s at his worst – sick!). You are with him day in and day out, so you are the “expert” concerning him. Trust your own instincts, even if you are in disagreement with your doctor.
If you’re child is still not talking at 30+ months, I highly recommend actively seeking therapy for him/her. Six months is a long time to wait for a toddler -that’s 1/4 of his whole life! Can you imagine your child’s struggle and frustration level if he/she can’t get his/her needs met and is not being understood? Often times what ends up happening is that your child will develop behaviors that aren’t his! What do I mean by this; well, if he’s not being understood and can’t get his needs met one of two things are likely to happen; 1. He’ll become withdrawn, quite and an introvert and afraid to even “try” as to not fail yet again, 2. He’ll become aggressive to get his own needs met. By this time negative patterns and high frustration levels are so much more of a habit than if we had seen your child and your family earlier. It’s the information that parents get from a speech pathologist or other early intervention professional that makes more of a difference than anything in the outcome for the child. You can immediately tweak what you’re doing everyday at home, in addition to the therapy he may receive and you’ll see your child’s frustrations subside and his progress bloom.
Is there something wrong with him or will he catch up? Does he have autism if he’s not talking yet?
Being a late talker is not an automated criteria for “autism” or the necessity for a label! Not all late talkers end up having academic problems. However, late talking and other developmental problems that weren’t addressed show up in the case histories of children who later struggle in school. To be honest, there’s still not an absolute reason that determines for sure which of the children who talk late will end up doing fine and which ones won’t. Experts agree that a child’s language skills at age 3 are the best predictor for future academic success. Just because you’re child is a late talker does not mean that he has autism! Being a late talker can be genetic. Remember when your mom or grandma talked about their neighbor John who was a “late bloomer” and didn’t talk until he was 3 years old? Well in “our” society we would “label” this child as a child who presents with delays. We may even give this delay different severity levels; mild, moderate, severe! Often times when children’s parents were late talkers, they tend to present with the same signs and it does not always mean that the child has autism.
For a child who’s delayed in their speech and language development, first thing I want to see is their last hearing test. I want to know how this child is hearing. Kids who can’t hear don’t talk either. I recommend having your child assessed by an audiologist (hearing doctor), especially if he’s had numerous ear infections. Fluid can be present with and without a true infection. You may never know if your child has fluid in his ears because he may not have shown any symptoms of illness such as a fever or obvious pain. If your child has fluid build up, it’s like hearing under water, half of what’s said is not heard and the other half sounds muffled. Kids with chronic ear infections may not correctly pronounce words because they don’t hear all the sounds.
I really appreciate your time visiting my post and invite you to continue brining and asking your questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Best of luck to you and your son! Odelia