Every child develops at his or her own pace. But if your child doesn't talk as much as most children of the same age, the problem may be speech delay. Your doctor may think your child has speech delay if he or she isn't able to do these things:
Speech delay occurs in up to 10 percent of children. The most common causes of speech delay include:
Other causes include:
The brain has to work harder to interpret and use 2 languages, so it may take longer for children to start using either one or both of the languages they're learning. It's not unusual for a bilingual child to use just one language for a while.
Your doctor can listen to your child's speech and check your child's mental development. Your child may also have a hearing test to check for hearing problems.
Your child may not need any treatment. Some children just take more time to start talking. The way your doctor might treat your child depends on the cause of the speech delay. Your doctor will tell you the cause of your child's problem and explain any treatments that might fix the problem or make it better. A speech and language pathologist might be helpful in making treatment plans. This person can show you how to help your child talk more and speak better, and also can teach your child how to listen or how to lip read.
Other health care workers who may be able to help you and your child include: an audiologist (a hearing doctor), a psychologist (a specialist in behavior problems), an occupational therapist or a social worker (who can help with family problems). Your family doctor will refer you to these health care workers if your child needs their help.
Evaluation and Management of the Child with Speech Delay by AKC Leung, M.B.B.S. and C Pion Kao, M.D. (American Family Physician June 01, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990600ap/3121.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff