Should We Be Alarmed About a Toddler’s Delayed Speech?

How many of us were a matter of concern to our parents because we failed to exhibit what was considered normal verbal ability or behavior according to the pediatricians’ charts? If this doesn’t describe you, have you known others who were regarded as “late talkers?” The experience of being a parent of a late talker can be an emotional one, especially if the child’s speech is significantly delayed and family members or friends frequently bring it to your attention. Many parents become concerned that their child might be developmentally challenged in language skills. When they compare their own child to those of their friends (who might be constantly jabbering), these parents may even fear that their toddler is mentally challenged.

Results of a new study, if it can be replicated, could certainly lower anxiety and stress levels of parents who face these challenges. Investigators found that 70-80% of children exhibiting speech delays catch up with their peers in language skills after age two. Also, any early emotional or behavioral problems associated with delayed language development do not generally continue after this time. It is believed that these problems were probably due to frustration (at not being able to communicate)–and not to some underlying genetic cause.

Since some children do have language impairments, it is wise to have early diagnosis and intervention. Isn’t this what we’ve always been told? Have you known parents whose response to this situation probably made matters worse? What specific behaviors of parents and older siblings do you think would have a negative effect on the slow-to-talk toddler? What are some things you would or could do that would have the opposite effect (that is, a proactive one)?

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