My 2½-year-old daughter is having real trouble talking. She only says about eight words clearly. Is she behind other children her age and how can I help her to start speaking more clearly and saying more words?
Yes, she is a little behind other children her age, but there are wide individual differences among children in the ages at which they begin to talk. Talk to your pediatrician or family physician about your concerns; a check of her hearing is always a critical first step. If she is hearing satisfactorily, a referral to a speech pathologist may be in order. However, because of the big differences in the age at which children talk with any fluency, many people do not like to make such referrals until the child is at least three years old.
Regardless of whether she needs to be seen by a specialist, there is much you can do to facilitate her development of speech. Read to her every day. Choose books that have very simple story lines and that repeat the same words over and over. (Take her to your public library and let her help choose some books.) Pay careful attention when she does try to talk, and give some type of response even if you haven’t completely understood her. Slow your own speech down and make certain it is absolutely clear. And, unless she gets terribly frustrated when you don’t understand her, try not to ask her to repeat what she has said. If that happens, say quietly, “Show me.”
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.