Many parents are concerned about their child meeting all the developmental milestones when they should. Some children can take a little longer to reach each stage, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to worry.
When it comes to speech, some children are simply late talkers. A late talker is a child aged 18 to 30 months who is developing normal play, social, and motor skills but has a limited vocabulary for their age. If your child is a late talker then it is likely that he or she will struggle with expressive language. Expressive language means communicating something they want or need, such as asking for milk, a favourite toy or something to eat.
Language delays can be receptive, expressive or a combination of the two. A receptive problem happens when your child finds it hard to understand language. An expressive delay is when your child finds it hard to express themselves and what they want. Sometimes children have trouble with both types of communication.
While every toddler develops at their own rate, most will meet speech milestones at roughly the same time.
There are some common signs that you can look out for:
- Not babbling by the age of 15 months
- Not talking by the age of 2
- An inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3
- Difficulty following instructions
- Poor pronunciation or articulation
- Difficulty putting words together in a sentence
- Leaving words out of a sentence
What causes language delay?
There are many possible causes for language delay, and sometimes several factors can contribute. Some common causes are:
- If a child has a hearing impairment then quite often they will have a speech delay too. If they can’t hear words properly then learning to speak becomes even more difficult.
- Autism often affects speech development, although not all autistic children have a speech delay.
- There are a variety of other intellectual disabilities that can contribute to a speech delay, such as dyslexia.
If you feel that your child isn’t meeting normal milestones, then it may be time to contact your GP. Your local GP will be able to make a referral to a paediatrician or a speech and language therapist. In most cases your toddler will be perfectly fine, and just a late talker, but it is important to follow up any concerns so that support can be put in place to tackle any delays.
A speech and language therapist will know what the signs are. Once referred your child will undergo tests to evaluate language development. Not only by testing their expressive and receptive language skills, but also looking at all the ways your child can communicate, even if their speech is not clear. You will then receive advice on what to do next.
It is very worrying to think your child might have a language delay, but by addressing your concerns, after all you are the person who knows your child best, and getting the right support you are doing the best for him or her.