What you can do if your child is not talking yet

By Dr. Larry Caesar, Pediatrician

Hearing your baby say “mama” or “dada” for the first time is a highly anticipated moment for you as parents.  Prior to this, your baby has used crying, cooing and babbling to get your attention and for social interaction.  Having a baby or toddler who does not talk as anticipated can cause parents so much anxiety.

Children who are a little delayed usually catch up with other kids, but not always.  Within any given family there may be a wide variation in language development between siblings. It is not uncommon for males to begin talking later than females, though the difference is often just by a few months. I have found that most parents have a good sense of when they should be concerned, however a discussion with your pediatrician can help relieve concerns and start the process to identifying any issues.

Every time you bring your child in for a well-child exam, his or her pediatrician does a speech assessment. The doctor looks for certain milestones. For instance, 2-month-old infants should be cooing conversationally, 4-month-old infants should additionally be laughing out loud, and 6-month-old infants should be babbling, as well as be aware of their names.

In addition to regular well-child exams, there are also tests that measure language skills and other areas of development. One example is the Parent’s Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS)—which is done here at Legacy—during the 9 month, 24 month, three and four year well-child exams.

Common causes of delayed speech in young children include:

  • Developmental disorders, such as cerebral palsy or autism spectrum disorder
  • Issues with a child’s tongue or a cleft palate
  • Repeated ear infections
  • Finger sucking or excessive attachment to pacifiers

Depending on what health issues may be causing your child’s speech delays, there are options to correct many problems. For a child who is not otherwise developmentally disabled, your pediatrician may suggest speech therapy, which can be obtained through an Early Childhood Intervention referral, before the age of three, and through insurance after that.  Parents of school-aged children can also request an evaluation and speech therapy at school. For children with disabilities, there is the Pre-school Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). This provides children ages 3-5, access to public education services free of charge.

In addition, kids with middle ear issues, like multiple ear infections, may benefit from seeing an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist who can surgically place tubes in the ear to reduce fluid buildup. Other kids may require hearing aids or more invasive procedures like cochlear implants. Speech therapy following these interventions has been shown to be beneficial.

If you are worried about your child’s language development skills, talk to his or her Legacy pediatrician, who can order an evaluation to better determine what is causing any speech delays.  Call 832-548-5000 to make an appointment.

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