Common Questions about Speech Development
Answers from a Speech Language Pathologist
Developmental Process of Speech
Children across all cultures follow a very similar developmental process. Sometimes this process gets disrupted and intervention is needed; we call this a “speech delay.”
What if my child repeats everything and is not using words independently?
"My child is like a little parrot, but I can't get him/her to say words on their own."
Repetition or imitation is an important skill, and it’s something that I cover extensively in my online course for parents. Every child needs to learn how to imitate. Unfortunately, some children get stuck in that imitation phase and don’t move past it to independent speech. There could be various reasons for that, and you should consult with a professional to determine why this is happening and how best to move forward. Hopefully, you’re working with a speech-language pathologist and a pediatrician so you can ask them more about this imitation. Ask, “is it a typically-developing imitation skill, or is it something that indicates something else is going on developmentally?”
What if my child has regressed and isn't saying as many words as they used to?
"My child used to say lots of words, but now he/she doesn't."
Regression is not a typical part of development, but regression can happen for specific reasons. An example of expected regression might be a child getting very sick and being in bed all the time rather than being engaged in learning activities. I have witnessed a minor regression in my clients when they’ve been ill for an extended time. But the regression lasts for a short period, and then they’re back to where they started and are moving forward again. Another reason for regression might be that a new baby was born. Because the baby is getting a lot of attention and the baby doesn’t talk and only cries, the child starts to cry instead of using their words. But again, that lasts for a very short time. Another example might be if a significant stressor in the family life occurs. Still, generally, regression is not expected. It can be an indicator of something else going on, so it would be a good idea to talk to a professional about the regression you’ve noticed.
What if I can’t understand a child?
"It's like my child has his/her own language."
I find that this happens with a lot of my clients who weren’t talking at all, and then finally they’re trying to speak, but we have no idea what they’re saying. Now, I don’t want you to freak out. All young children make some errors in their pronunciation. Some mistakes are typical errors for their age and some that are not typical. There are usually many errors under the age of three, but children typically outgrow most of the articulation errors on their own by age three. Make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist to determine whether the mistakes your child is making are common or not and whether speech therapy is needed.
Disclaimer: This information is meant for general education and not to diagnose.