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Slow To Talk Toddler - Late Talker

Updated on June 6, 2013

I have a friend whom her daughter is a few days younger than my son. She is concerned as her daughter who currently is 21 month old still isn’t talking. Her daughter only says a few words, like “Mama” and “Papa”. As a parent, she starts to worry when she compares her girl with my boy. Her concern raises my eagerness to know more about “Slow to Talk” among children. After much reading and survey amongst experienced parents from colleagues and friends, I hope she can ease down a little after reading my article…

All babies or children develop differently, some are languages talent, and some are not. Thus, it is best not to compare one with another. No comparison but it is advisable to find the causes if your child is Slow to Talk. Both nature and nurture causes could contribute to Slow to Talk.

By Nature:

1. Hearing impairments

Hearing is important for children to understand the message conveyed. Children who fully or partially aren't responding to sound definitely have troubles in picking up speech.

2. Ear infections

Ear infections are common childhood problem. When infections happen, it may affect hearing ability. Children who have hearing trouble may have troubles to understand, imitate and talk. Any ear infections should be treated early to avoid hearing disability.

3. Oral impairment / tongue tie

Oral impairment like tongue-tie may cause speech delay. Tongue-tie means the membrane (the frenulum) that attaches beneath the tongue of the mouth is shorter than usual. A short frenulum can limit the tongue movements of speech. Clipping a frenulum can be done to rectify the impairment.

4. Oral-motor problems / motor planning problem

Oral-motor problems with difficulty using tongue, jaw and lips to work together. If the 3 buddies do not work well, the speech cannot be produced.

5. Cognitive developmental disorders

Cognitive development disorders include delay in problem solving skills, memory deficits and general learning skills. Children with cognitive development delay combined with language disorders are usually late talkers. The disease normally appears during the first three years.

6. Autism

Autism is kind of brain problem due to disorder of neural development. Children with autism are hard to communicate with others and relate to outside world. Appropriate treatment and education can eventually help the children “work out from their little world”.

7. Breathing disorders

Any breathing disorders will cause babies or children to breathe with open mouth. Please treat any sinus, cold, flu or allergy problems immediately so that the little one can breathe through their nose. Stuffy nose is the culprit that not only discourages babies or children to talk but also affect their appetite.

8. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) refers to complex brain injuries caused by some form of traumatic impacts. Our brain control whole body functions. Any injuries to brain will cause impairments.

9. Birth defects

Any birth defects like cleft lip or cleft palate not only affect the look; it can also lead to problems associate with eating, talking and ear infections.

All the nature causes should be treated immediately. The earlier treatment starts, the higher chance of recovery. Trust your instincts and observations, and if something seems wrong to you, ask your pediatrician about it.

Interaction promotes speech
Interaction promotes speech

By Nurture:

1. Inadequate childcare / growing up environment

Child care or growing up environment is an important factor in determining the character of babies or children. Most Asian families do not encourage the children to ask. On the contrary, they are nurture in the way of obeying. If the children ask a lot of questions, they will be label as “problem child” or told to shut up.

For those babies or children who are taken care (one to one) by their grandmother or grandfather or the maid tend to have delay in speech development. As the opportunities for communication exchange and participation are lesser compared to those babies or children who are in nursery where the surrounding environment is always filled with different interactions.

2. Lack of parental involvement

Most parents are working parents and their babies or children mostly are taking care either by childcare center, babysitter or nanny, or by their grandparents. Some parents are hardly seeing their babies or children due to long working hours or heavy work demand. It is either their babies or children are not staying with them or when they reached home, their babies or children have already slept. We strongly encourage parents to spend more time communicating with their babies or children as the bonding is never able to be replaced by anyone. It can start as early as infancy. Talk, sing, read to your little one will help them to pick up language faster.

No time to do so?

If you really have no time to talk, sing and read. Then start doing it from your every day routine. Example: When you are driving out with your babies or children, you may sing to your babies or you may point out the object you see to your little one.

3. Lack of socialization

Babies or children love to socialize. And it is never too young to give them opportunities to interact with others. However, due to high criminal rate, parents are reluctant to allow their babies or children to interact freely. This means limiting the face to face interactions. Most people nowadays do not talk or speak, but express their thought and feeling in words through the form of SMS or E-mails.

To promote positive interactions, it can start as simple as taking your babies or children with you to the supermarket or nearby neighbourhood. The interactions start from those strangers who may smile or chit-chat or play little games like “playing fun kiss”, “give me Five” or “clapping hand”.

Conclusion - Identifying, recognizing and treating problems early in Slow to Talk toddlers are important. Do not delay or shy to seek help from your pediatrician or language expert if you think assistance is required.

The process of overcoming Slow to Talk needs more time, patience and effort. Thus, it is important to have support and understanding from all family members. The support and care given to the child along the journey is the key to help overcome this problem.

Message to my girl friend,

You have my best wish and support. Take care.

Link to Website

Baby - Speech and Language Development

Reading to your child is a great way to boost speech skills. Books help a child add words to her vocabulary, make sense of grammar, and link meanings to pictures. Ordinary conversation with your 2-year-old helps in similar ways. Mealtimes and bedtime provide nice opportunities to sit and chat in the course of a busy day. Researchers have found that the more words a child hears, the greater her vocabulary will be.

Baby Care – Feeding Bottle Sterilization

Do you need to sterilize baby bottle? Some believe that sterilization is not required with the current supply of water being treated and sanitized. But many parents still play it safe and sterilize their baby’s feeding bottles. Why?


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    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from South East Asia

      Thank you for your kind words Ddraigcoch.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from South East Asia

      Aini, give hime time. As you mentioned, he can understand commands already... and quite a number of them I would say. And also dance. No worries. Such a clever boy, he is.

    • Ddraigcoch profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      I think you are a great friend for reassuring your friend x Great hub.

    • profile image

      Aini Hussain 

      10 years ago

      My youngest boy is now 28months also reluctant to talk. only says mama, papa, kakak (sister).but he understands command like keep, throw, put back, close , open etc.he has no hearing problem.enjoys music and likes to dance when music is to sing but with no words, can only hear melody.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      adrienne, you are right that observation is the key. Different babies have different development pace. I don't think there is much concern if your niece is responding to words. Responding does not have to be in talking (a nod is also responding). Some toddlers just don't like to talk but they understand.

      In my opinion, there is no harm taking her to a pediatrician if it eases the pressure from the family.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Fierce Manson 

      10 years ago from Atlanta

      This is a great article. My counsin little girl is slow with speaking. She's turning 2 this weekend the family wants my counsin to take her to the pediatrician to make sure nothing is wrong. Some children are slow to talk, but observation is key.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      Meghan, I know of a boy who is like you. He is 3 years old, perfectly normal and adorable. He just doesn't like to talk. So here is how we know if he is normal.. check if he can respond to words or instructions which he did. The key here is observation, however if in doubt please go to a pediatrician. Some children just need more time to express themselves with words. He is now over 4 years old and sometimes we can here him talking, shouting and playing from our house (he lives a few houses away from us). Meghan, we appreciate you sharing your personal experience here.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I didn't say my first word until i was 3 years old and I have no mental or physical problems, I was just stubborn

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      I think it's always best to check with the doctor once we suspect something unusual about our child. Early detection helps as apraxia can be treated with therapy.

    • HealthyHanna profile image


      10 years ago from Utah

      This is an interesting subject for me. There is a new condition emerging called 'apraxia' where children are not developing their speaking skills. It is so hard for parents to know when and if to be concerned.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      Somehow he has to communicate to get what he wants.. food, water, play toys or potty. Instinctively, he has to talk. Your nephew has adjusted well to the new environment without his sister. Thanks for sharing.

    • samboiam profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      jasonycc, great hub. Lots of information. I also have a nephew that did not start talking until his older sister started school. She did all the talking for him. When she was no longer around all day he had to talk for himself.


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