Warning signs of language delay in toddlers

Children learn language at different rates, but most follow a general timeline. If your child doesn’t seem to be meeting communication milestones within several weeks of the average, ask her doctor about it.

It may be nothing, but if your child is delayed in some way, recognizing and treating the problem early is crucial for developing language and other cognitive skills in the long run.

Keep in mind that the timetable for language development is broad, and your child may run into small roadblocks along the way. For example, your toddler might repeat a word several times in the middle of a sentence as a way of holding your attention as she formulates the rest of her thought. (This isn’t the same thing as stammering.)

Also remember that if your child was born prematurely she may be off schedule by a few weeks or months. Preemies usually catch up with other children on milestones around the age of 2.

When to get help

As a general rule, trust your instincts. If something seems wrong to you, ask about it. After all, you know your child best. Talk to your child’s doctor if your toddler shows any of these signs:
By 12 months

  • doesn’t babble with changes in tone – e.g. dadadadadadadadada
  • doesn’t use gestures like waving “bye bye” or shaking head for “no”
  • doesn’t respond to her/his name
  • doesn’t communicate in some way when s/he needs help with something
  • Isn’t pointing out things of interest such as a bird or airplane overhead

 

By 15 months

  • doesn’t understand and respond to words like “no” and “up”
  • says no words
  • doesn’t point to objects or pictures when asked “Where’s the…?
  • doesn’t point to things of interest as if to say “Look at that!”  and then look right at you

By 18 months

  • doesn’t understand simple commands like “Don’t touch”
  • isn’t using at least 20 single words like “Mommy” or “up”
  • doesn’t respond with a word or gesture to a question such as “What’s that? or “Where’s your shoe?”
  • can’t point to two or three major body parts such as head, nose, eyes, feet

By 24 months

  • says fewer than 100 words
  • isn’t consistently joining two words together like “Daddy go” or “ shoes on”
  • doesn’t imitate actions or words
  • doesn’t pretend with toys, such as feeding doll or making toy man drive toy car

By 30 months

  • says fewer than 300 words
  • isn’t using action words like “run”, “eat”, “fall”
  • isn’t using some adult grammar, such as “two babies” and “doggie sleeping”

3-4 years

  • doesn’t ask questions by 3 years
  • isn’t using sentences (e.g., “I don’t want that” or “My truck is broken”)  by three years
  • isn’t able to tell a simple story by four or five years

 

If you’ve noticed one or more of these warning signs in your child, it’s important that you take action right away to ensure that he receives the help he needs.

 

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