mummy-babyMy son is 22 months old but hasn’t spoken any words yet. Is this a matter to worry about? At what age should he start talking? Does delayed speech indicate any underlying problem?

Talking is an important milestone that your baby achieves gradually. Before he actually speaks in words there would be enough initiation from his side to communicate with you by cooing and gurgling. All this starts almost around two months of age and this initial process helps in building words and picking up vocabulary gradually. At around 12 to 18 months of age, your baby should be speaking at least 20 words or so,  be able to express himself with proper gestures, point to stuff when asked to do so, react when his name is called and  point out to family members.

Remember every baby is different and will reach his developmental milestones at his own pace. If your baby is not talking look out for these signs that say his verbal skills are still at the nascent stage and needs little prodding from your side to blurt out words. Check if your baby:

  • Babbles a lot trying to express himself and even makes sounds in attempt to talk in words
  • Can point to family members when asked about them
  • Can point pictures, pick up toys when asked to do so
  • Responds to his own name when called 

If you notice these signs in you baby chances are he is going to start talking a little later than his peers. But if you still fail to see these signs then it should raise an alarm. Between 12 and 24 months, you should be concerned if:

  • He isn’t using gestures such as pointing or waving bye-bye
  • By 12 months he still prefers gestures over vocalisation for communication
  • By 18 months has trouble imitating sounds and also has difficulty understanding simple verbal requests
  • He is 2 years old and still doesn’t show any of the healthy signs of communication

Delayed speech in an otherwise playful, active and healthy baby can also mean there is some other trouble elsewhere that needs attention, such as: 

Oral impairments: Delayed speech can be associated with a physiological problem in the tongue or the palate. A short frenulum the fold beneath the tongue can limit the movement of the tongue and delay speech production. 

Oral-motor problems: This means insufficient functioning in the areas of the brain responsible for speech production. This also results in difficulty in co-ordination with the lips, tongue and jaws to produce speech. Another significant sign that points to oral-motor problem is difficulty in feedings, like trouble in chewing and swallowing  solid foods. 

Hearing problem: Speech development in babies depends on a simple principle of ‘listen and learn’. The more you talk to your baby the more he is introduced to words, phrases and sentences. This opens a whole new world of words for him. He listens, absorbs and tries to reproduce the words later. Hence it is always advised to talk to the newborn and toddler often to initiate speech development. If you have done your part well and still your baby fails to respond, it can indicate that he is suffering from a hearing problem. Hearing problem are commonly related to delayed speech. A child who has trouble hearing may have trouble articulating as well as understanding, imitating, and using language. Also ear infections in the initial months of the life can affect hearing. As long as there is normal hearing in at least one ear, speech and language will develop normally. Also read 6 ways to help your baby talk soon. 

Seek an evaluation from a speech specialist and a audiologist to check on your baby’s hearing and verbal skills status.

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