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Your Top Speech Questions Answered
Speech and speech therapy is one of the hottest topics of parenting and motherhood. Are you worried because your child doesn't talk yet? Is your child mispronouncing words?
Today, we answer the most common speech questions troubling mothers.
Q: My child doesn't talk yet. Is that normal?
To begin with, each child is different when it comes to speech. Many babies say their first word from as early as 8 months; others may start talking at 2 years.
The most important thing is to watch out for signs of communication. Whether your child is pointing to objects, pulling you towards objects, or simply making grunting or playful noises, your child is on his/her way to saying the first words. Also, look for signs of understanding: does your child respond to his/her name? Does your child respond to simple commands such as "stop", "walk", or "open"?
Such communication cues are our guideline for determining whether your child is on the right path. If you don't see any communication signs, it is important to consult with your pediatrician for a general hearing assessment.
If your child avoids eye contact, does not interact with peers, or is exhibiting anti-social behavior, an autism screening test is recommended.
Q: My child mispronounces words. Is this normal?
As part of speech development, children will often mispronounce different words. Children watch us closely to model speech production. Sounds that are produced by the lips such as "b" or "m" are easily pronounced as your child watches your lips moving and learns.
Other sounds that are more complex such as "k" and "g" and "j" are harder to learn, because your child does not see you producing them – as they are produced using the back of the palate and tongue.
Your child will often substitute letters to make it easier to say a certain word. Over time, your child begins to master saying such words.
Usually pediatricians do not recommend drastic measures unless your child is over 5 years of age.
Q: We live in a bilingual home. Will that delay my child's speech?
Living in a home with different languages spoken will delay speech in children. However, the delay in speech is only temporary and later on your child will acquire both languages at a native level.
Do not be afraid to expose your child to different languages at an early age. Your baby will take more time to absorb keyword sets from different languages, but the benefit outweighs the temporary delay.
Q: Why does my child speak in third person? Is that normal?
Children under the age of 3 years are not fully able to grasp the concept of pronouns. A toddler refers to himself/herself by name such as "Sarah want ball" or "Ahmad eat apple".
With linguistic development, your child begins to use pronouns and form longer sentences with complex concepts.
Q: I can't understand what my child is saying! Is that normal?
For children under the age of 2, mothers understand only about half of what they say. This is normal due to pronunciation and speech difficulties.
If you don't understand what your baby is saying, try to ask more questions without causing stress in your child's life. Avoid negative comments such as "I don't understand you!" or "What was that?"
Instead, try to guess by using questions such as "is it the ball?" or "tell me more". Children who are frustrated because of broken communication are prone to head banging. So try your best to reinforce positive communication!
Q: My child isn't much of a talker. He/she prefers to play. Is that normal?
Some children are more talkative than others – speech comes naturally to them. Other children are more active and love playing activities such as running, jumping, crawling and climbing.
If your child is under 3 years of age, this should not be a point of concern. If your child is still not talkative by 3 years of age, it is important to consult with your pediatrician for assessment.
Q: What can I do to enhance my child's speech development?
There are simple tips to enhance your child's speech:
For more speech tips and answers, check out our Speech & Speech Therapy Section.