Posted: Apr 19, 2012 5:06 PM
If your 2-year-old isn't saying much, you may be worried that she has a speech delay. Some children just operate on their own schedule, while others truly have a delay. Here are a few ways to help her get to talking and what to do if you are really concerned.

Your baby's first word is a much-anticipated milestone. Usually a baby will begin saying his first word at around 12 months -- but this can vary. And by the time they are 2 years old, they may have a pretty good vocabulary and begin to put two words together.

Talking, in a nutshell

Babies begin cooing within the first few months of life and by 4 to 6 months they will begin combining vowels with consonants for a bevy of delightful babbling. In the second half of their first year they will work on fine tuning that babbling and may favor certain sounds.

The first real word often appears around or after their first birthday. The rest of their second year will bring new words to their vocabulary as their fine motor skills (those responsible for speech) refine and develop. By their second year, most toddlers will be stringing at least two words together as their vocabulary explodes at an impressive pace.

Huge variation of normal

While the above is how most children develop their speech, there are normal exceptions. Some children will speak early and often, astounding their parents and those around them with their enormous vocabularies. And other children will be more reserved. They may have older siblings who do a lot of speaking for them or they are, by nature, shy creatures.

Spur their speech

Bathe your child in words. Help your little one's burgeoning vocabulary by reading to her frequently. Also, narrate your daily activities, asking questions and pausing for an answer. Use sign language -- you may think it will lead to a speech delay but it actually encourages a child to communicate and speak. Many speech/language pathologists encourage its use.

When to seek help

There are a few scenarios to look out for. Intervention, when it comes to speech delays, is better done earlier than later and an evaluation will not hurt your child.

  • By 1 year -- if your baby doesn't make any sounds, eye contact or stops babbling
  • 12 to 18 months -- if your toddler isn't saying a single word by 15 or so months or doesn't seem to understand what you are saying
  • 18 months to 2 years -- if your toddler doesn't initiate speaking with others, doesn't get frustrated when you can't understand him or hasn't combined two words by his second birthday

Bring up your child's speech habits with your caregiver at a well check-up and she will be able to tell you if he's on the right path. If not, she'll refer you to an expert who will evaluate your child and get him the help he needs.

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