Monday, June 13, 2005

What to do when your baby doesn't talk

It is natural for parents to worry about their baby's development, and one of the areas that causes the most concern is speech development. While most babies will begin to babble or even say simple words such as "Mama" or "Dada" by the time they turn one year old, other babies don't say a word until they are 18 months or even older.

By the time your child is two years old, he or she will likely have a few words in his or her repertoire. By the age of two, most children can say twenty to fifty words and they may even begin to put two or three words together to make simple sentences. By age three, most children can say more complicated sentences and will communicate much more clearly. But what if your child is over the age of two and still isn't doing much more than babbling? It's likely that your child is just taking his or her time, but it can't hurt to start an intervention program if you feel that your child has a speech delay.

What to do:

Consult with your pediatrician. Your baby's doctor may suggest a course of action that includes a hearing test or a speech therapy program. In addition, if your child had frequent ear infections as an infant, he or she may need ear tube surgery. Many children with a history of ear infections need to have tubes put in their ears to drain out excess fluid, and you may find that your child's hearing improves after this procedure is performed. Your doctor is the best judge as to whether your baby needs ear tube surgery.

If your baby's hearing is tested and there is no hearing loss, contact a speech therapist or a local agency to have your baby evaluated. Most insurance plans will cover the cost of a speech therapist, but check your plan to make sure. If there is a local intervention agency in your area, your child may qualify for free services-- and often the speech therapist will come to your home each week to work with your child. Your baby may have to be re-evaluated at the age of three, to see if he or she still qualifies for free services.

Things to do at home:

Read to your child often. Simple, repetitive books are best for young babies and toddlers. Ask your child questions about the storybooks and point out simple objects. Even if your child doesn't respond, he or she will be listening to you.

Buy some flash cards and use them with your child on a daily basis. The Baby Einstein Company makes a wonderful set of interactive flash cards that include additional activities that you can do together once your child can say the words.

Play sing-a-long music while you're in the car with your baby. The songs will become familiar to your child and he or she may even try to sing along.

Give your child as much one on one attention as you can every day. The more you talk with you child, the more he or she will learn.

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