More than 5 million U.S. children have a communication disorder.
If communication was only about making noise, your toddler might earn top honors. After all, screaming and laughing are ways of communicating. However, communication for your toddler means much more. It includes hearing, understanding and expressing thoughts in an age appropriate way. When you notice other toddlers using more words and word combinations than your little one, it’s only natural to wonder if the difference is just part of normal development or if your toddler has a communication problem. By educating yourself, you can identify communication problems in your toddler and intervene to help.
1Get to know developmental milestones. There is a natural progression for mastering communication skills. Referring to a developmental chart can help you see how your child is progressing. This is a better form of reference than the mother at the park who claims her perfect child was speaking in full sentences at birth.
2Note how your child expresses himself. Pay attention to the number of words and combination of words he uses and how these match up to developmental milestones. For instance, by the time your toddler is 18-months-old, her vocabulary should be between five and 20 words, according to the University of Michigan Health Systems. By the time your toddler is 2, he should be using two word sentences such as, “Go bye-bye” or “More juice.” If your child is not able to communicate his needs, he may become frustrated and revert to crying or screaming to express himself.
3Check to see if your child hears and understands you. Your toddler may seem to hear and respond to your voice, but she could be responding to visual cues that you give. To check her hearing, ask a simple question when she is not looking at you. For example, with your back to your child ask, “How old are you?” or “Do you want a snack?” Use a normal voice. Do this several times through the day. If your child does not respond, she may have a hearing problem. If she turns at the sound of your voice but doesn’t respond, she may hear you but not understand what is being said. By the age of 3, your child should understand basic instructions like, “Put it on the bed.”
4Pay attention to articulation development. While toddlers sometime seem to have their own language, you should be able to understand about one-half of what your 2-year-old says and three-quarters of what your 3-year-old says. By the age of 3, your child should be able to clearly articulate the k, g, f, t, d and n sounds. Problems with articulation may be the result of physical problems with the tongue or roof of the mouth. It can also be related to coordination of the lips, tongue and jaw.
5Take your child for an evaluation. If you are concerned about your child’s communication -- whether it’s his ability to express himself, understand others or form words -- talk to your pediatrician. He may refer you to a pediatric audiologist or a speech-language pathologist.
- Start early to give your toddler the most help with communication problems.A listing of certified audiologists and speech-language pathologists can be found at asha.org.