"Why doesn't my child talk? Why can't I understand what my child says? Why doesn't my child talk like his sister/cousin/neighbor?" This question is one that I am asked many times and today I am going to give you some reasons why a child might be delayed in starting to talk.
Let's first look at your child's health. There are many health issues that children experience that can interfere with the development of communication. One of the most important is if they have ear infections. Does your child have an occasional ear infection or do they have ear infections that seem to last forever and don't resolve after one round of antibiotics? When I hear that a child has had many ear infections and especially the ones that are hard to get rid of, that raises a red flag in my mind. Having ear infections can really interfere with learning language. I want you to take a minute and put a finger in each of your ears, wiggle them around and try to listen to the TV or someone talking to you. How well did you understand what was being heard? How well did you hear the individual sounds that were being produced? That is pretty much what it sounds like when you have ear infections or fluid in your ears!!! Now imagine that you are trying to learn language but for several months out of the year you are hearing the world through muffled ears.....not an easy job at all.
So, I need you to keep an eye on your child's ear health. Look for your child rubbing or pulling on their ears; or ears that are red; of course be aware if there is a fever; or if you notice that your child doesn't seem to respond as well as they normally do. Some children can have an ear infection or fluid in their ear and have no pain or indication that there is a problem. These are the ones that are tricky to catch. But if your child's language isn't progressing well it never hurts to have their ears checked for infections or fluid.
Since we are talking about ears, if you have your child's hearing evaluated be sure to go to an audiologist that specializes in working with children. They will be more fun for your child and are used to working with children so should be able to get good results.
Another thing to be aware of is the size of your child's tonsils and adenoids. Children with large tonsils and adenoids can have trouble with eating, sleeping, saying sounds, and breathing. Does your child have their mouth open alot? Do they snore? These are some signs of large tonsils and adenoids. If the tonsils and adenoids are large enough they can almost close off the back of the child's throat. The child then protects that area by eating small bites and may struggle with coordinating breathing and swallowing. This can effect how well sounds are produced as well as the quality of their voices. Large tonsils and adenoids can also interfere with a child's quality of sleep which then affects the child's whole day.
We already talked about oral motor skills affecting language so I'm not going to go over that again, but just remember that it is important that your child is moving their tongue all over their mouth and all over their lips, up and down and back and forth. They need to pucker; they need to lift their tongue up to the top of their mouths, inside and be able to wiggle it all around.
Sometimes I see a child that isn't talking yet and they are the youngest in a house of several or more children :) These children don't have a reason to use language, someone is always problem solving for them or talking for them. This can also happen in a house where the child is alone with mom and dad and they are anticipating the child's needs so they don't have to use their language.
And sometimes you have to look at what your child is very good at. Right at this moment, what does your child do best?? If they have just started walking or love the active, motor driven activities, they may not be interested in talking right now. They are focused on moving!!!! When a child learns to walk you often times will see language development slow down because they are so busy practicing walking and moving and are not practicing language. So look at the sister/cousins/neighbors that you are comparing your child to and see what your child does better than them. Is your child the one that can climb up anything? Is your child fantastic at fine motor activities like puzzles, play dough? Children develop at their own speed and so you normally see a difference in when different skills come in.
As always feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.