Wait to see what? There are so many reasons to which a parent may attribute their child’s delayed communication. As a speech-language pathologist, I have heard them all. “Her older sister talks for her.” “She is independent and does everything herself.” “Her big sister does everything for her.” “Her mom was really quiet as a child.” “He is a boy.” “He is an only child.” “He is the first child.” “He is a middle child.” “He is the youngest child.” “He doesn’t want to talk.” “His dad didn’t speak until he was in kindergarten.” The possible reasons go on and on. Additionally, parents may hear rationales from various friends, neighbors, family members, such as, “My child didn’t talk and he is just fine.”
The reality is that developmental milestones are expectations that typically developing children should achieve on their own. The environment may influence the rate at which a child achieves these milestones, but they are generally achieved by the average child within an average range. Does this mean that some kids may be ahead and some kids may be behind? Absolutely! However, think about it this way. If every boy, or only child, or first child, or middle child, or youngest child didn’t meet their speech and language milestones, then no child would meet the expectations so developmental milestones wouldn’t exist.
Children need to be able to communicate their wants, needs, and desires. Consider if you lost your ability to communicate. What impact would that have on your daily interactions? You wouldn’t be able to make a phone call, order take out, chat with your friends. Consider if you experienced that for 4 years! That is how long it would take your one year old to get to Kindergarten. If you lost this ability for only a year or two, that is equivalent to your one year old, now being three and entering preschool! The children around her will be able to participate in conversations and your child will be behind the curve.
Although every child is different, most children should be responding to their name, understanding familiar words, engaging in social games, and saying a few words by the time they are 1 year of age. By 2 years of age, they should be pointing to pictures in a book when named, using many words, and combining 2 or more words together in phrases. By 3 years of age, children should be following 2 part directions, constantly adding new words to their understanding, asking simple questions, and combining 3 or more words into phrases and sentences.
Children are able to learn so much when their brains are young and the neurological pathways are developing. It’s important not to ignore those key years to wait and see. Early intervention is key! If your child isn’t meeting milestones, the big question is “Why?” A speech-language pathologist is the professional trained in speech and language development and can assess your child’s play skills, social skills, oral motor movements, speech sounds, and language skills to determine if they are within an appropriate range for age and gender. He or she will be able to also provide you an objective clinical opinion whether treatment is needed or if it is appropriate to wait. Not only that, a speech-language pathologist will assist you in figuring out why your child isn’t talking as much as the neighbor kids and whether an underlying medical diagnosis that your child will not outgrow may be contributing. The right intervention will help to determine if further assessments are necessary.
A speech-language pathologist will help you to understand your child, and your child to understand you. Most children are attempting to communicate in their own way. With skilled intervention, your child can learn to communicate more effectively with you and those around you. The right speech-language pathologist will provide you with tools to support your child’s speech and language development throughout your daily routines.
There is no reason to wait and see. Don’t let others around you persuade you as to what your child should or should not be saying. Let a speech-language pathologist in your community provide you with an individualized, professional, and objective assessment and plan of care to best support you and your child!
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has developmental charts available to reference for early speech, language, and hearing skills https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has checklists available for all areas of development https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/checklists/Checklists-with-Tips_Reader_508.pdf and a milestone app that allows you to track your child’s milestones https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones-app.html.