Why Can’t My Child Talk?

Common Pediatric Speech Problems

As early as infancy, babies communicate by making sounds of their own. As a child develops and enters their first year of life, they begin to speak words and develop the ability to process information and communicate it.

Common (Early Age) Communication Milestones

6 months old – your child babbles and responds to you when they hear new sounds

12 months old – your child begins to say a word or two, with language that continues to increase to include more words

18-20 months old – your child begins to string several words together and can speak 10-20 words

2 years old – your child can ask simple questions and can say 2-3 word sentences, such as, “Where’s my blanket?” or “I want cookie”

Why Can’t My Child Talk?

If your child has passed all of the milestones and you believe they should be talking at their age, you may ask, “Why can’t my child talk?” 

Your child may be a “late bloomer”, with no cause for concern. The age that children develop and start talking can vary. Your child may blossom in speech and language skills through extra measures that you make at home, or speech may improve with the help of a pediatric speech and language specialist (PSLS).

Talk with your pediatrician if your:

6-month-old child never responds to you, or if they are overtly quiet

12-month-old child has never spoken a word

18-20-month-old child prefers gestures rather than communicating vocally (speaking words)

2-year-old child does not speak, or repeats the same words repeatedly and does not produce their own words to communicate their wants or needs

It can be difficult for a parent that lives with their child every day to discern if their child has a developmental disorder, or a speech or language problem, or if they are simply a “late bloomer”. The earlier that your child gets help, the more powerful and effective help will be to their progress. Your first step should be to talk with your child’s pediatrician.

How Speech and Language Dysfunctions are Different

The difference between speech and language is often misunderstood.

Language is how we process information and communicate it, either verbally, non-verbally, or through written words. Children who do not understand words and gestures, or those that have trouble expressing themselves, experience difficulties with being understood. Children with learning disabilities, or developmental disorders, such as cerebral palsy or autism spectrum disorder, frequently experience language challenges.

Speech is the verbal communication of language. Children can have difficulty articulating words due to physical abnormalities with their tongue, the roof of their mouth, or because of hearing loss.

Studies report that approximately 20% of special needs children receiving education services are receiving services for speech and language disorders. More than half of special needs children who are three to five years old receive speech and language services. About 40% of children with autism are non-verbal.

How You Can Help Your Child

Parents can help their child with speech or language challenges through simple steps at home:

Place emphasis on communication. Frequently talk to your child. Tell your child what you are doing and what you are thinking throughout your day. Use gestures along with words that you speak. Sing to your child and provide music, which encourages your child to develop new word and listening skills. Do not force your child to speak, and if they do speak, give them time to respond. When your child does respond, use body language that shows that you are listening. Talk to your child in a normal tone and avoid using “baby talk,” even if your child is a toddler or younger.

Read books to your child. Read aloud. Read books that are age-appropriate. Picture books can be a supportive tool in the development of language and speech. Encourage your child to name pictures if they lose interest in hearing you read.

Provide varied experiences. Plan simple trips and outings with your child. Include your child in household activities. Talk with them before, during, and after each activity or outing. Follow your child’s lead and learn what they are interested in. Talk about the things that they are interested in. A trip to the grocery store can become a communication-boosting experience as you name foods and other items in the store.

How Therapy Can Help Your Child

Speech and language pathologists (PSLSs) are skilled and trained in a number of therapeutic methods which not only help your child express communication and process information, but also develop strength, awareness, coordination, and mobility of the oral muscles required for speech and other functions your child may need help with, such as eating.

Each of our therapists has extensive experience with sensory integration disorders. We actively collaborate with occupational and physical therapists to gain a better understanding of your child’s specific needs. We create tailored programs for each child, which leads to success as our clinicians gain trust and develop a positive connection with your child.

Contact Us

If you are interested in our pediatric speech and language services, or if you have any questions about our services, we urge you to email us at [email protected] or call us at (713) 522-8880.

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