Editor’s Note: Meeting developmental and growth milestones is very important for a child. And when they get delayed, we, as parents, begin to worry. Sometimes logically so. Here are some tips that our member SLV has shared with us regarding anxiety about delayed speech development. She is a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist. 

While analyzing your child’s speech development, if you have any doubts regarding the same then ask yourself these questions;

1. Being born premature is not in itself any high risk for Speech and Language delay. Many premature babies grow as full-term babies. What’s of concern to me is- How is his hearing? Have you got it checked?

2. Could you send me a list of words he says and also check if he is hearing you when you talk or is it just a common/casual reaction to how you talk/ your facial expressions.

3. How are his eating habits?- Is he chewing or still preferring soft food?

4. Try and also answer this questionnaire and I can help by suggesting exercises, if you could write these answers to me. 

The first 5 years of a child’s life is considered Golden Period to be learning all essential skills and any kind of therapy initiated in this period will work wonders and help the child get to normal stream. So please don’t hesitate to get him checked. For all you know the therapist may say that the child is normal and will learn on his own and that’ll still make you feel good and no more worries about the child. So do consider seeing a specialist and not just a Pediatrician, they may say its ok, he’ll learn and we might just loose time waiting. 

In fact by 3 years children are expected to make 3 word combination like “Mamma give milk”. They need not be grammatically correct but at least 3 or words in a sentence or phrase. The communication during the younger days is more need based and slowly as the child grows will include self-expressions, opinions, disagreement and also descriptions. It’s indeed a matter to seek help if he is 5 and is talking very less for his age. 

Look out for a Speech Pathologist in your area, make an appointment and visit them ASAP. Please do not shy away from visiting, its really very important for the child to pick up speech now, else he may be left behind in his school. And also, when i say “talk more” to the child, i cannot show you how to do that, so a therapist can demonstrate these activities better and seeing an expert do, will help you learn the right technique for use with the child. And also, there are a lot more factors influencing the child’s speech and language development which an expert can access better. I may not be able to ask you detailed question on this forum and hence may be missing out on vital aspects. Am just suggesting a few activities for start and not to be loosing time, you should meet the expert at the earliest.

You could also start helping the child by:

Give instructions in your mother tongue and of course you could use relevant words in English (when needed) so that his vocabulary is expanding too. 

Talk to him lots. This means, not just question and answer sessions like:

  • “what is this” and even before the child answers “this is a ball”
  • About things he is seeing, touching, eating, holding and stuff like that. 
  • Say the situation is : The child is playing with a red colored toy car. So the parent or anybody around starts talking to the child. “Oh, you are playing with a car….its a nice car….it has 4 wheels, wheels go round and round…………it has 2lights, lights go flash flash, and lets see whose driving the car? Appa……No…(child’s name) is driving the car…..he is driving it so fast…….” and so on. Be sure to give enough time/ pauses in your speech, so that the child is following you, picking up the words you use and registering it within him.

Your speech towards the child has to be attractive, use simplified words with animated tones like “Ohh..”, “No-No” (instead of a just “no”), exaggerate your answers to his questions. Sing along rhymes (in your mother tongue too) and act them out with the child, so that he is understanding the rhymes. Children’s rhymes have lots of new and easy words for them to learn and use.

Make it a routine activity to sit with him and talk to him. Yes, switch off the TV, phone and all distractions. Sit with the child, allow him to play around, while you do the commentary part of it. Even if you feel the child is not paying attestation, continue to do it everyday and slowly the child will be wanting to listen to you talk and describe things and will also be learning more words.

This is very important- teaching the child to talk is not just teaching him words like colors, numbers and alphabets. Please focus on communication. teach him to talk when giving him a bath/ feeding him/ going out with him/ dressing him- teach him words in a context and not out of the blue.

So your commentary starts once the child is up in the morning (in your mother tongue)- Oh my sweety, good morning…..did you sleep well? lets’ go the toilet and brush brush brush/ wash wash wash….talk like you would sing. ……..is somebody hungry…..what has Amma made today…..umm…..yummy upma……who like the carrots/tomatoes in the Upma….and then…..what color dress shall we wear…….(please wait for any kind of reaction from the child) you may answer these questions yourselves, but still wait for his reaction and then continue.

Like this you will get a lot of opportunities to talk to the child. make sure you take the lead from the child and then continue. Let me know if you have already tried it or if you are able to follow me, i could add some more examples in your mother tongue and write down activities for you.