When it comes to speech, every child has a different pace of learning. In the first year, they should be able to recognize and respond to their own names and simple directions like ‘come’, etc. By a child’s second birthday, he or she should be able to use a single word or two-word phrases and understand simple questions. If a child’s speech development seems atypical for his or her age, you may need to consult a speech therapist. Some of the things you should look out for are:
- Mispronouncing vowels: Many children have problems with pronunciation. Pronouncing ‘bath’ as ‘baf’ or ‘animal’ as ‘amal’ is normal. However, if they cannot pronounce vowels correctly, they may be having problems with articulation. For example, your child might say ‘coo’ instead of ‘cow’.
- Using only single words: Part of a speech therapist’s job is to teach a child to join words together to create phrases and sentences. If even after your child’s second birthday, they still prefer using single words instead of phrases, you should consult a speech therapist. For example, they may just say ‘water’ instead of ‘i want water’.
- Stuttering: Many children are shy and hesitant of speaking especially in front of strangers. However, stuttering is a more serious problem. This could be in the form of repeating syllables or prolonging words. For example, ‘s-s-s-s-s-stop’ or ‘mmmmmm me’. If this is not nipped in the bud, it could continue into the child’s adult life as well.
- Answering a question by repeating part of it: By the age of three years, a child should be able to understand and answer simple questions. If the child answers a question by repeating part of it, such as answering “do you want food” with “you want food”, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. This is known as echolalia and might be an early symptom of autism.
- Limited vocabulary: Each child’s vocabulary grows at a different rate but it is important to be able to notice an increase in the child’s vocabulary from month to month. If the child uses only a finite set of words and does not catch on to new words, you may need a speech therapist. They can help the child expand their vocabulary and become more receptive to new words.
Other factors you should watch out for include difficulty with pronouns, not being able to follow instructions and understand prepositions and confusion with gender. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!