What should I do if I suspect my toddler has a speech delay? Health & Development

iStock.com/Marina_Di

mother and toddler son
iStock.com/Marina_Di

When kids aren't speaking as clearly or using as many words as other kids their age, there are several potential explanations -- having a clear answer allows you to give your child the help he needs. Here's what a pediatrician and other moms suggest doing when you suspect a speech delay in your child.

See the Pediatrician Right Away

"For a speech delay, I recommend going right into the pediatrician. The most common reason is a hearing loss, so your child needs to have his hearing tested right away. This can be done with a regular pediatrician and doesn't have to be with an ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist]." -- Christina Johns, MD, MEd, FAAP, senior medical adviser, PM Pediatrics, Lake Success, NY

"For a speech delay, I recommend going right into the pediatrician. The most common reason is a hearing loss, so your child needs to have his hearing tested right away. This can be done with a regular pediatrician and doesn't have to be with an ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist]." -- Christina Johns, MD, MEd, FAAP, senior medical adviser, PM Pediatrics, Lake Success, NY

Special Schooling Can Help

"I took my son for an evaluation and started speech therapy. He is turning 3 soon, so he is going for an evaluation next week. If they determine he needs an IEP (individualized education program), he will start preschool in the next couple of months."

Some Kids Just Take Longer

"My daughter only spoke six words when she turned 3. Momma, dada, bubba, ebles, nana (all names), and no. At her 3-year well visit, the doctor was concerned, and we were discussing a speech therapist. Well, she must have been listening, because the next day she started speaking in complete sentences!"

Don't Wait

"My almost-5-year-old didn't start talking until the middle of last year. I had my suspicions when he was little that he had autism but there wasn't much doctors could do at that point. Before his third birthday, I got him into speech and OT (occupational therapy) and now that he's in school, he talks nonstop. If you have a feeling your child is delayed, don't be embarrassed or ashamed that it's something you did or didn't do. The longer you wait, the worse it gets."

Trust Your Instincts

"Your 'mommy intuition' is always right. We noticed at 9 months that something was off a bit, when my son started saying 'daddy' but then overnight stopped -- and also stopped making sounds. We eventually had him evaluated for autism. Turns out, Mommy was right. They said he would likely never speak. Now, he is the smartest kid in his class and talks to you like an adult. I get so excited every morning when I hear 'Good morning, Mommy!'"

Advocate for Your Child

"I had been telling my son's pediatrician that I thought my son needed further testing since before he was 1. He basically brushed me off and ignored me until my son was 18 months and still not saying a single word. Then, he kept forgetting to send in the referral paperwork, so I switched to a new pediatrician who is amazing. He took my concerns seriously right away. We are in the process of getting everything done my insurance company requires to get my son (who is now 2 and a half) into...

"I had been telling my son's pediatrician that I thought my son needed further testing since before he was 1. He basically brushed me off and ignored me until my son was 18 months and still not saying a single word. Then, he kept forgetting to send in the referral paperwork, so I switched to a new pediatrician who is amazing. He took my concerns seriously right away. We are in the process of getting everything done my insurance company requires to get my son (who is now 2 and a half) into speech therapy and get him tested for autism. Next step is an ABR test, then we can start speech therapy while we wait for an appointment with the child psychologist to get the further tests we need. It's been a long process, made more difficult than it needed to be by a horrible pediatrician and the insurance company, but I'm glad we're finally making some progress."

Specialized Programs Can Help

"We took our son to be evaluated when he was 3 and couldn't say any words. They checked in his mouth and throat, did an autism assessment, hearing test, and intelligence test. He passed all of the tests -- on intelligence he was even above average in some areas. He ended up having childhood apraxia of speech, and he started kindergarten with literally five words. He used an iPad with communication apps for the first few months. Then he started improving. He's 7 now and speaks so much better...

"We took our son to be evaluated when he was 3 and couldn't say any words. They checked in his mouth and throat, did an autism assessment, hearing test, and intelligence test. He passed all of the tests -- on intelligence he was even above average in some areas. He ended up having childhood apraxia of speech, and he started kindergarten with literally five words. He used an iPad with communication apps for the first few months. Then he started improving. He's 7 now and speaks so much better (at about a 5-year-old level) and is so smart!"

Hearing Could Be the Problem

"My son had a speech delay. He was 1½, and I noticed that he wasn't speaking as clearly or as much as his older siblings did at around the same age. When he spoke, no one could understand what he was saying, but if you listened to him, he made the exact same pattern of sounds when you asked him 'What?' I mentioned it to his doctor and he was sent to an ENT specialist and they did some testing including hearing tests. His hearing was bad in both ears. He had lots of fluid buildup in his...

"My son had a speech delay. He was 1½, and I noticed that he wasn't speaking as clearly or as much as his older siblings did at around the same age. When he spoke, no one could understand what he was saying, but if you listened to him, he made the exact same pattern of sounds when you asked him 'What?' I mentioned it to his doctor and he was sent to an ENT specialist and they did some testing including hearing tests. His hearing was bad in both ears. He had lots of fluid buildup in his ears. He was scheduled to have tubes put in his ears the next month. Literally the same day the tubes were out in he started to say some words correctly. He went to speech therapy for about a year, and his therapist was amazed at how fast he improved and how extensive his vocabulary was. He is 5 now and way ahead of all the other children in his kindergarten class."

Give Your Child Some Help

"My daughter stopped saying 'mama' and other words when she was a little over a year old. We got her early intervention and she is talking just fine. We think it was a phase!"

Speech Therapy Can Be Very Effective

"My son that is now 4 had to be evaluated and needed speech therapy. He goes one day a week for an hour it has done wonders for him."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.