3 Year Old Not Talking But Understands: What To Do?

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Do you notice your 3 year old not talking but understands? It could be a sign of a speech or language disorder.

With that said, it’s essential to acquire a professional diagnosis before attempting to remedy the issue.

There are a couple of reasons why your child might not be reaching their developmental speech milestones.

3 Year Old Not Talking But Understands: Possible Reasons

As mentioned, there are a couple of reasons why your child might be behind in their speech. Here are the possible answers why:

Speech Delays

The most common reason is a speech delay, especially if your child is three but has yet to begin talking.

Likely, you’ve noticed that your kid can comprehend things that you say but cannot verbally communicate what they want to say.

Speech delays can become prevalent due to many issues, whether it be a learning disability or health concern.

For example, premature birth is a significant influence on developmental delays in children.

Childhood Apraxia

Apraxia is a speech disorder that prevents the human body from producing speech.

The majority of individuals suffering from this disorder have a neurological deficit. This is when the brain finds it challenging to coordinate the jaw, lips, and tongue to create speech.

Children dealing with apraxia will find that it’s hard to articulate syllables, sounds, and words.

It’s most likely that children will experience apraxia if they’ve encountered neurological damage.

Trauma, illness, or injury could cause apraxia, as well as genetic and degenerative disorders.

How To Tell If My Child Understands Without Talking?

In most cases, you’ll quickly be able to tell if your child understands even without talking. You might give them a command that they follow through with or connect using visual cues.

There are a couple of other ways to test why your 3 yr old not talking.

Gestures for Communication

Have you begun to notice a shift in your child to where they’re now using gestures to communicate?

This method is most commonly experienced with children who find it challenging to communicate verbally.

It’s also a sure-fire way to tell whether they can understand what you’re saying or not.

For example, if you say something they don’t like, they might make an off-putting facial expression.

You might also find that they’ll begin using their hands to signal towards things they want.

It’s highly common for children with speech delay to use their bodies to tell you when they’re hungry or tired.

Typically, children will begin using gestures as early as one and a half years old to communicate.

If it becomes their primary method of connecting, it’s relatively simple to see that your child has a speech delay.

Lack of Rough Sentences

By the age of 24 months, it’s unlikely that your child will be able to hold full conversations, even without a speech delay.

However, they should be able to produce rough sentences using hard-to-understand words.

If your child isn’t able to do so, it could signify that they experience a speech delay that requires professional help.

With that said, it can also be a way to test if they can understand you without talking.

By 24 months old, your child should be able to let you know how they feel by using sounds. For example, they can squeal when they’re excited or cry when they’re upset.

If they haven’t established rough speech by this time, you should speak to their doctor.

When Should You Worry If Your Child Is Not Talking?

There’s no doubt that every child is different, but when should you worry if your child is not talking? How do I know if my 3 year old needs speech therapy?

Typically, between 12 and 17 months, you can begin to see signs of whether your child can communicate verbally.

Any issues can become increasingly prevalent between 18 and 23 months.

By knowing the developmental milestones for speech, you can get an idea of when to consider consulting a doctor.

Birth to Five Months

In this milestone, your child should be able to make displeasure and pleasurable sounds. For example, they might cry, giggle, or laugh.

A coo is also a familiar sound that babies will make at this stage.

It’s also important to note whether your child relates to you when you talk to them. Typically, babies will make noises when they are spoken to, showing that they somewhat understand.

Six to 11 Months

At this stage, your child should be able to babble as well as begin mimicking your speech. For example, if you say a specific sound, they should be able to replicate that sound.

Typically, they will begin to explain themselves using gestures and actions at this age, as well.

Most children between six and 11 months will understand the meaning of “no” and will likely say their first word.

12 to 17 Months

Nonverbal communication is a big part of this developmental milestone.

If you were to ask your child a question, they should be able to respond non-verbally. For example, yes or no questions can be answered by nodding or shaking their head.

Children should also use up to three words to label a person, although pronunciation might not be clear.

You’ll also begin to notice that they will start to imitate some of the simpler words you use around them.

Most children between 12 and 17 months will have a vocabulary that consists of at least four words.

3 year old not talking but understands

18 to 23 Months

Although your child’s pronunciation might still not be clear, they should have a more extensive vocabulary of 50 words.

They should be able to ask for everyday things by name, for example, specific types of food. You might also begin to notice they’ll put simple words together to create basic sentences.

Pronouns can also begin to develop at this age.

If your child’s speech issues persist through this stage, it doesn’t mean they’re a late talker. Often, children who cannot talk after 23 months are considered to have a speech delay.

Two to Three Years

Answering simple questions is one of the vast improvements during this milestone.

Children might also be able to increase sentence formation to at least three words and begin using descriptive terms.

Pronouns should be relatively simple for them to use, as well as spatial concepts.

When saying a statement or question, there can be different inflections in their speech. They might also begin to recognize the importance of plurals and past tense.

Overall, their speech should be more accurate, although strangers still might not understand.

Three to Four Years

As another significant jump in language, children three to four should be easy to understand, even for strangers.

They will begin grouping objects, identify colors, and use most speech sounds.

Children might also be able to use most consonants throughout words and describe the use of specific objects.

At this stage, they can start to enjoy language and will remember songs and rhymes. You will also notice they’ll use “ing” at the end of sentences and answer simple questions.

Four to Five Years

Understanding spatial concepts should be simple for a child at this point. They will also find it simpler to understand more challenging questions.

When answering, their speech will be clear and understandable, but longer words can still be challenging.

Between four and five years of age, children can describe how to do certain activities and answer most questions.

Their speech will also develop to where they can begin using irregular past tense words.

Five Years

Their speech should be mostly developed by now, even though it will improve over the next five years.

Children five years of age will be able to understand the sequences of time, rhyming, object descriptions, and more.

They should also be able to create stories using their imagination and be able to engage in conversations.

Most of your child’s sentences will be eight or more words and can be complicated and compound.

How Do I Know If My 3 Year Old Needs Speech Therapy?

In most cases, parents can tell they need speech therapy for 3 year old well before three years of age.

If they do not meet the developmental milestones listed above, it’s time to consult with a professional.

A few key things to look for in regards to speech delays include:

12 Months

  • Inability to use gestures to communicate
  • Doesn’t point to particular items they want
  • Cannot wave goodbye

18 Months

  • Opts to use gestures as a form of communication
  • Cannot imitate sounds without difficulty
  • Doesn’t understand most verbal requests

2 Years

  • Is only able to imitate actions
  • Isn’t able to develop spontaneous sentences
  • Cannot form spontaneous words
  • Only uses certain words repeatedly
  • Doesn’t use oral language to discuss immediate needs
  • Cannot follow instructions
  • Has a nasal or raspy tone of voice

As a general rule of thumb, parents should understand up to 50% of their child’s speech at two years old.

By three years, up to 75% of their speech should be easily recognizable by parents and caregivers.

At four, strangers should be able to understand what your child is saying mostly.

How to Find Speech Therapy for 3 Year Old?

The most reliable way to find speech therapy for a 3-year-old is to talk to their pediatrician. In most cases, you will likely have to be referred before seeing a specialist.

Their doctor will be able to make a note of the developmental milestones they’re missing before seeing a specialist.

It’s also a good idea for you to begin doing some research on your own to know what to expect when your 3 yr old not talking.

Visiting a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist will require plenty of tests, which you should prepare for.

You can also find some of the top-recommended specialists in your area to ensure your child gets the care they need.

Parents can always benefit from introducing unique toys for speech delayed toddlers. These unique items will help to engage your children and give them a break from delayed learning.

How to Help a Three Year Old Not Talking

There are several things you can do to help address the issue of a 3 year old not talking but understands.

Ensuring that you provide your child with all of the love and non-verbal communication they need is essential.

With the help of their family doctor, a specialist, and recommended techniques, you can help a child with speech delay.

By identifying the possible root cause of the speech delay, your child can get the care and attention they need.