By: Katherine Marfal-Teves
It is inevitable for a parent to worry if his/her child does not speak a single word at age 2 when you keep on hearing kids at this age explode with words—and your child’s pediatrician keeps on reminding you about the so-called “ideal milestones.”
My husband and I know that. Our little boy started to say “mama” when he was already 2 years and 6 months; and even after his first word, his next words didn’t come quickly (and easily).
But fret not, because this is definitely not a dead-end situation. In fact, there are studies that state that late speech is not a determinant whether your child will succeed or not. And we, as parents, can do something to help our children talk more.
It is definitely not an easy situation to be in, but it’s worth to remember a few important things that will definitely make a difference:
1. Children develop at different paces. This would help us avoid comparing our child with his peers. We have learned that the more we make comparisons, the more we become worried and frustrated. Let us remind ourselves that our child is unique in his own way.
2. Each child has different strengths. If your child is a late talker, it doesn’t mean that he won’t excel in other areas. Speech and language are just a couple of the many areas that children must learn. For example, our Zaro is very good in building blocks, so we make sure that we support him in developing this strength by joining him build blocks, and letting him attend building blocks activities so he could also mingle with other children. In this way, we are also helping him develop his self-confidence.
3. Late speech is not always a sign of a serious disorder. You may have heard that children with late speech may have Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. But this is not always the case. You need to consult a developmental pediatrician to assess your child. But if your child is developing normally, and delayed speech is his only problem—you should keep calm and leave the worries behind.
4. Seek help if needed. As a parent, you would know if your child needs professional help—and you should not be ashamed or afraid of it. There are tons of speech and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists who can help your child develop his speech faster and develop basic skills that he may still be lacking.
At first, I was also reluctant to enroll my son in a speech and language program. I thought I could easily train my child to speak because I am a stay-at-home mom. But as time passed, I’ve realized that my son needs this program— and I didn’t regret that decision.
This program does not only train a child to speak more; it also prepares him for the big school. ABA therapists help your child sit quietly while his teacher is speaking, maintain focus to get tasks done, learn basic skills like coloring, tracing, sorting and matching; and develop an overall positive behavior that will make him more equipped when he starts formal schooling.
After a year of speech and language-based therapy, our son can now utter clear words and has become more sociable. He already enjoys the company of other children.
5. Exposure to other children is key. Children imitate their peers. This is why it is a good practice to expose your child to other children of his age, so he could imitate what they’re saying. Just make sure that you’re always there to guide him to monitor all the words that he is hearing.
6. Don’t pay attention to comments about your child. Since your child is not talking a lot yet like his peers, it is likely that you have heard other people telling you that something might be wrong with your child. Ignore them. Based on our experience, it won’t be of any help and it just triggered unnecessary worries and a bit of self-pity.
7. Believe in your child. Be your child’s number one cheerleader and morale booster by giving him praises for all his achievements—no matter how big or small it is. Every time Zaro says a new word, I make sure that I congratulate and hug him.
8. Pray. There’s nothing more powerful than prayers. Training your child to talk more requires a lot of patience, hard work, and commitment. And you can only do all these if you ask guidance from the Lord.
Our son’s speech is still delayed for his age, but we’re optimistic that as he turns 4 years old in August—he will explode with meaningful words!
With God’s grace and our enormous support, our late talker can overcome this delay. Just stay positive!
Katherine Marfal-Teves is a mom to a 3-year-old future heartthrob and building blocks artist. She would love to know herself more through her poems, stories, and articles.