Ah, the baby's first word - it's what every parent has been dying to hear. If you have a baby, you know the feeling. In fact, you keep on talking to your little tot hoping he/she would drop his/her first ma-ma or da-da anytime. But what if your baby doesn't talk right away? What if other babies the same age start toying with words naturally but your baby can't even get to say that word you've been repeating a hundred times a day? Does this mean he/she has delayed development?
In a study that appeared in the August issue of Pediatrics, it was revealed that late talking does not automatically signal a delay in development. It may indicate some behavioral or emotional issues among toddlers but they easily get over this during the phase of childhood. Talking usually starts for most children at age one. Some don't talk until two or three years old.
The researchers followed over 2,800 children starting from birth up to the age 17. Mild levels of behavioral and emotional problems were seen among the 142 children who were late talkers. But there was a risk seen in terms of other problems like anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The findings also supported that most of the late talkers in the study underwent normal development. About 18 percent of children are late talkers. But they usually catch up by the time they go to school. Some even perform excellently in academics.
Of course, there is some exception to this. There are some late talkers who appear to have developmental delays, hearing problems, and intellectual disability. The key to distinguish whether your late talking child has a problem or not is to see if he or she is able to catch up.
Early intervention can also play a role in preventing developmental delay. Talk to your child's pediatrician or a reliable child development specialist regarding this matter. You must also have your child's hearing checked as this may be a possible reason why he/she is not able to learn how to communicate.
Being patient with the child is of utmost importance. It's never right for a parent to force a child to talk or worse, punish him/her for not being able to do so. This will only traumatize the child and make it more difficult for him/her to utter a word.
Instead, give your child ample time. Encourage but never force. Remember, every kid's milestone is different from another. Don't be ashamed about the fact that your neighbor's kid has started chattering before her first birthday. It's not a competition.
Certain factors have been associated with delay in speech development. These include:
- mother's age
- educational level
- smoking during pregnancy
- alcohol during pregnancy
- maternal depression; if a mom is depressed, she is less likely to talk to her child. The less time she spends chatting with her baby, the less exposure the child gets in hearing and learning words that he/she may use later on.