It’s normal for parents to get worried and concerned about their toddler’s speech development. Most parents look forward to hearing their toddler say their first word. Whether it’s going to be ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, it gives you peace to at least know that your child doesn’t have speech problems.

But what happens when a child gets to a certain age and they can’t talk? People will tell you that boys talk late, that someone in the family was a late talker and that you should not compare your child’s milestones with those of their peers. But any parent who has had to deal with a late talker can honestly tell you that all these are easier said than done. How do you not worry about your kid not being able to talk while all of their peers are way ahead?

Mother and toddler (Dundee International Women's Centre)
Mother and toddler (Dundee International Women's Centre)

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How to know that your child is a late talker

Of course, a child does not wake up one day and make cohesive statements. It all starts somewhere. Between two to seven months, your baby should already be making sounds which are a preparation for speech. That period, you expect to hear the coos, oohs, and aahs sounds from your baby. If these sounds are absent at around that age, then it is a signal that your child might be a late talker.

As they grow older, they will then combine syllables and say things like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. By around 12 months, your child should at least be able to use simple gestures to communicate what they want. For example, they can wave their hand to say ‘goodbye’ or point at something they want. If they are not doing that already, then you probably need to talk to a speech pathologist to have them examined.

Toddler playing with laptop (Three Men On A Boat)
Toddler playing with laptop (Three Men On A Boat)

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By the time your child is 2 years old, they should be in a position to use around 100 words and use two combined words that are not just something they have memorized. Words like ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you’ do not count in this case. It should be a combination of something like, ‘mama cookie’, ‘eat banana’ and the likes. If they are still struggling and can only utter very few words, don’t just assume that they will hack it with time. Yes, some kids do hack it with time, but others don’t. So, you can never be so certain that your kid will be the latter or the former.

Late talkers and autism

Mom and son (autismorg)
Mom and son (autismorg)

Autistic children are often late talkers. However, late talkers are not necessarily autistic. Late talkers have normal development in all other aspects apart from speech. Their cognitive skills are fine, they can see clearly, hear clearly but their speech is just delayed.

What you should do if your child is a late talker

First things first. If you are really concerned, then don’t just assume that they will learn to speak with time. Seek help from a speech-language pathologist.

Secondly, you can have their hearing ability evaluated. It could be the reason as to why your child cannot speak yet is because they have a hearing impairment.