Most toddlers at two years old can say roughly 50 words and speak in sentences of two or three words. If yours isn’t doing this, you may worry about speech delay.
But, do speech delayed toddlers catch up? The answer depends on the reason for the delay, but they can do so.
Milestones help parents and doctors determine if there is a speech delay present.
A three-year-old child should be able to say 1,000 words.
If they aren’t speaking in short sentences yet or using that many words, it could signal a speech delay.
Remember, though, that these milestones are just guidelines. Children are always going to develop differently based on a variety of factors.
How Is a Language and Speech Delay Different?
While both delay issues are hard to tell apart and referred to as the same, there are some significant differences.
Speech is the act of saying words and producing sounds. A toddler with a speech delay may make the wrong sounds or words, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate issues with comprehension.
On the other hand, language delays often involve nonverbal and verbal communicating and understanding problems.
Toddlers with this condition can make the right sounds and even produce a few words, but can’t create sentences and phrases that make sense.
Sometimes, the two conditions overlap. Still, you really don’t need to know if it’s one or the other to start treatment and get an evaluation.
What’s Speech Delay for Toddlers?
Babies often coo as infants and then start babbling nonsense. It is the first step for them to talk as toddlers.
Speech delay happens when a toddler doesn’t meet the milestones most doctors use as a gauge.
Children progress at the rate they feel most comfortable with, so being a little late isn’t a problem.
What Does a Typical Three-Year-Old Do?
Generally, a three-year-old can call people by name and themselves. They can also use 1,000 words, including verbs, adjectives, and nouns.
Plus, they might ask questions, sing songs, or repeat nursery rhymes. Often, those who spend the most time with them understand the first and best.
That said, some three-year-olds can talk well enough that strangers understand them.
What Are the Possible Signs of a Speech Delay?
Now that you know what toddlers should be able to do, you can determine if there is a speech delay.
Your baby might not coo or make any sounds at the two-month-old mark. This is the earliest sign that something might be wrong.
At 18-month-old, babies should be able to say “dada” and “mama” and other similar things.
By age two, your child should be using roughly 25 words. If not, that can signal a speech delay.
By 2.5 years old, your child should use noun-verb combos and two-word phrases. When they don’t, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong.
Also, if your child can’t say words that you know they have previously learned, it’s an indication of a speech delay.
What Causes a Speech Delay?
The causes of speech delay are countless.
Generally, there is nothing severely wrong, so it might take them a little longer to get to where three-year-olds should be.
However, speech delays can mean there is something wrong with intellectual or physical development.
These can include:
1. Mouth Issues
Often, an issue of the palate, tongue, or mouth can cause a speech delay. For example, ankyloglossia is the condition of being tongue-tied.
It means the tongue didn’t develop right and is connected too much to the floor of the mouth.
It makes it hard for your child to create various sounds, such as “th“, “d“, “l“, and “s” sounds.
You may notice this in infancy when the baby cannot latch on to breastfeed.
2. Speech Disorders
When a three-year-old can nonverbally communicate and comprehend what you say but doesn’t say much, it indicates a speech delay.
They may also say words but not put them into a phrase you understand.
Sometimes, this is caused by a speech or language disorder that involves brain function and can include a learning disability.
Premature birth is the most common cause of developmental delays.
Another example is childhood apraxia of speech. It’s a physical disorder that makes it tough for kids to form sounds correctly to make words.
That said, it doesn’t affect the comprehension of language or nonverbal communication.
3. Hearing Loss
When toddlers can’t hear very well, or the speech sounds distorted, it will make it hard for them to talk.
A sign of hearing loss for children is that they don’t acknowledge when you talk to them. However, if you gesture, they respond quickly.
Other hearing loss signs can be subtle; in fact, the speech delay is often the only sign.
4. Absence of Stimulation
Everyone learns to speak by hearing a conversation and joining in. You can’t pick up on sounds and words when no one engages with you.
As such, your child’s environment is essential for the development of speech.
If you aren’t talking to your kids, they might not reach the milestones at the right times.
Usually, if your child has autism, they will have language and speech problems.
Other signs of autism can include repetitive behavior and repeating phrases instead of creating them.
You may also notice that they aren’t socially interacting with others or regress when it comes to speech.
6. Neurological Issues
Sometimes, neurological issues can affect the muscles needed for speech.
Things like a traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy can all be part of that.
Those with cerebral palsy might also develop hearing loss, which affects speech.
Can Speech-Delayed Toddlers Catch up or Need to Be Treated?
So, do speech delayed toddlers catch up? Many speech-delayed toddlers can catch up with time.
That is because a speech delay just means that the child isn’t speaking as quickly as the milestones suggest they do.
It is not always an indication that something is terribly wrong, and there are many things that you can do to help your toddler catch up.
Sometimes, treatment isn’t necessary since there are things that you can do to help your child.
One is to make sure that you read to them every day. This way, they hear words and communication and then start mimicking it.
You can also give them special toys to help with speech.
Some of these toys talk, but others are geared toward teaching sounds and are to be played with parents.
Often, though, these aren’t enough. You may need to talk to specialists such as audiologists, neurologists, and speech-language pathologists.
They can suggest and use the most appropriate treatment to help your child develop appropriately.
What Treatments Are Available?
Some of the highly suggested methods to manage speech delays are:
1. Speech-Language Therapy
Most specialists want to start with speech-language therapy, and that might be all your child needs.
When used early, children can often have normal speech before they go to school.
Of course, speech-language therapy can be used in conjunction with other treatments based on the diagnosis.
2. Early Intervention
If your doctor has diagnosed your child with speech delay, your three-year-old could qualify for early intervention services before school.
These interventions can help with behavioral and socialization issues and help your child talk correctly at the right time.
3. Treatment of the Underlying Condition
If speech delay occurs because of hearing problems, mouth or tongue issues, and more, they need to be corrected.
Fitting your child for hearing aids can help them hear what you say.
Fixing tongue and mouth problems with corrective surgery ensures that they can form the right words and sounds.
Do Speech Delayed Toddlers Catch Up: The Conclusion
Communicating with your child isn’t always easy, especially if you worry they have a speech delay.
Many times, speech-delayed toddlers can catch up and reach appropriate milestones on with some help from you and other at-home activities.
Treatments, if necessary, are available, too. Thus, it is best to talk to your doctor to find the right solutions for your family.