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Detecting a child’s language delay — Good Parenting

Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Detecting a child’s language delay — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My son is 3-years-old and barely speaks at all. We have a large family, so it’s not like he doesn’t hear lots of language around him. His hearing seems to be fine. Should I be concerned? He won’t start school for quite a while yet, so is it best to wait and see if he has problems then?

Busy Mom

Don’t miss last week’s column “When doesn it stop being all about ‘me’?”

Dear Busy Mom,

Time is of the essence for language development. By age 3, your child’s brain should have developed many of the basics of language that he will need for the rest of his life – inflection, turn taking, parts of speech, sentence structure, and a spoken vocabulary of at least 500 words. While occasionally there are children who “barely speak” during the preschool years and later blurt out well-articulated sentences when the mood hits them, it is a good idea to check language development against the normal milestones.

  • Age 2-4 months – enjoys cooing back and forth with you
  • Age 10-12 months – has at least one word (or sound) to indicate an object or action
  • Age 20-24 months – puts two words together, such as “more milk”
  • Ages 28-36 months – adds about a word a day to his spoken vocabulary
  • Age 3 years – speaks clearly enough for a non-family member to understand

The earlier a language delay is addressed, the sooner a child can get help for the essential skill of oral communication. A more detailed timeline for the first 2 years can be found on the Mayo Clinic website.

If your child falls short of these norms, contact Child Find – a free service of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Their phone number is 410-766-6662. If indeed your child is behind on language skills, the Child Find staff will work with you to suggest activities you can easily do at home and if necessary, refer you to an appropriate preschool program or individual therapist. Each school district (Prince George’s County, Calvert County, etc.) has a Child Find office, so if you’re not in Anne Arundel County, the services are similar.

Please do not wait.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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