Help! My Toddler Doesn't Talk

Cynthia Dermody

How many words can your toddler say? Does he come up with them on his own or does he just copy you? Can a stranger understand at least some of what he says?

These are all important questions to ask when determining if your child's speech is on track. For instance, halford2005 posted in the CafeMom Newcomer's Club that she's concerned her 2-year-old son only knows a handful of words.

He doesn't say them consistently and often goes a whole day without saying anything. Is this normal?

Here's the deal:

By 2, your child should be using 50 words on his own (not simply repeating others) and combining words to make short sentences ("I get ball" "Doggie long tail").

Someone outside the immediate family should be able to understand half of what he says. They should be able to understand everything your child says by the time he's 4.

Dr. Rahil Briggs, a psychologist at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, says if you suspect your child has a speech problem, get his hearing evaluated, since children mainly learn to talk by listening to you and others around them. And of course, ask your doctor about visiting a speech therapist.

To help stimulate talking at home, she offers these tips:

1.  Be a sportscaster Comment on everything you are doing through the day. "Mommy is putting the rice into the water, now Mommy is stirring the rice in the water. Now I'm picking up a carrot and peeling it ..."

2. Read books The more the better. This helps your child understand the connection between oral and written language.

3. Pose a question Even if you know he wants the cookie, try to make him ask for it. Hold up both a cookie and an apple and ask, "Do you want the cookie or the apple?"

4. Turn off the TV It's a passive activity that does NOT stimulate language.

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