Two-year old Isn’t Talking Yet!?!

My Two-year old isn’t Talking Yet!?!
(written: 24/01/2010)    

Assalamu Alaikum,

Every parent looks forward to that priceless moment when your baby first says ‘mama’ and/or ‘dada’. But unfortunately, some parents have to wait a little longer than they expected… One of my sons took very long to talk. He was almost 2 ½ years old and still babbling complete ‘gibberish’, for loss of a better word!

They were full sentences, and he seemed to understand exactly what he was saying: “Dugga dugga dhika dhikee bam!bam! Bouu!” is just a sample of what he would prattle out throughout the day. I really started to worry because he just wasn’t showing any ability to form his words properly! I cannot even begin to describe the immense feeling of  joy I had felt when he started saying “Ba Ba!” meaning ‘bye bye’ at about 1 ½ years old. But since then, right up until about 2 ½ years old that was about it. His words were not rounding off at all! He could not pronounce an entire two syllable word properly and every time he babbled it seemed as if he was forcing to get the words out, but they just came out as… well…‘gibberish’.

For those of you who may be in this boat. This is where you start …as my story, Alhamdulillah, had a happy ending:-

1) Observe his cognitive& problem-solving skills – Is he a smart kid? I don’t mean he has to be a genius or anything. But if you hide a ball under one of two red cups, will he be able to look under the correct cup if he saw you do this? Would he maybe point to the fridge if he wants a snack, maybe give you a clean pampers if he needs a change? In my case, my two year old completely self-thought himself how to point and click on a computer, open and re-size browsers, he identified the YouTube logo and clicked on it anytime he saw it and waited for me to type in a children’s video category (like the Arabic alphabet, the alphabet, counting, puppet shows, etc). Now, there’s a ‘favorites’ folder that he just clicks on and pick whichever words look familiar to him. This way I can monitor what he watches, even if my back is turned. He knows the play button, the stop button, how to minimize, how to put two open browsers side by side to see both at the same time…children are really amazing sometimes!

2) Observe his behavior – Monitor what he does during the day. You need to ensure that there isn’t something mental going on that is preventing his speech. For example, look out for things like short attention spans, giving up easily, knocking his hands on his head, constant and repetitive body movements that don’t make sense, unresponsiveness, in-ability to express his feelings clearly, lack of much expression altogether…etc…

3) Social skills – Does he like to play with other kids? I found that the ability to socialize and play with others had a lot to do with my toddlers’ ability to talk. At the time where he was not saying much, he was very clingy to me or to his daddy, if he played he played by himself in a corner, he never had much of an interest in animals which I found was a little strange for a kid his age; he had absolutely no reaction to them.

4) Have his ears checked – I had started getting very concerned about this, but Alhamdulillah we had a very good and highly recommended pediatrician who advised me to carry him for a hearing test by a hearing specialist. Because although he could hear, the doctor was concerned that maybe he was not hearing long spans of sentences and this could be interfering with his ability to pick up words and phrases properly.

5) Speech Therapist – When my son’s hearing was diagnosed as nothing less than perfect Alhamdulillah… He was recommended to a Speech Therapist. This was where many changes took place! I simply went to see her and hear what she had to say and the ideas that she gave me were more than enough! I didn’t even have to attend any formal sessions after that!

*If all the above things seem okay then more than likely you child is simply what they call a ‘Late Bloomer’. It doesn’t mean he’s backward or not as smart as another child his age. It simply means that he took a little longer than others to develop the speech part of it.  But as with my son, this may also mean that he has excelled and compensated for this in many other areas of his development that you may or may not have noticed. (For example my son’s ability to memorize, apply and repeat extremely complicated things he simply saw someone else doing on one occasion.) I mean how many two year olds can know to double click on “My Computer”, then “Mummy’s Folder”, then “Mummy’s downloads”, then “Arabic Alphabet video”  without me ever (wallahi) sitting and teaching him how to do this. I found that to be incredible….Alhamdulillah…

Now if you suspect your child may simply be falling into the ‘Late-Bloomer’ category, there is still the worry of school starting soon and you don’t want your little one falling behind or starting school later than other kids his age because he can’t make full sentences yet. Thus it is essential that you do everything you can to get those words out from him. Believe it or not, this is to a large extent rooted in the amount of confidence your child has in himself. It may also be a matter of you, the mummy, giving him everything he needs without him having to ask for it, thus there is no need to talk.

Here are a few ideas from both: my experience and ideas given to me by the Speech Therapist I visited:

1)   ‘Early-Bloomer’ siblings – Sometimes when they have an older sibling that does all the talking, they don’t feel the need to talk themselves as all their needs are satisfied by the older sibling saying everything that needs to be said. Thus it is crucial that you make you child feel like an individual, rather than ‘the tag along sibling’. Give him/her hobbies of their own. Try to think back and figure out activities that your older child did not show interest in and present these options to your toddler. See which one they show a preference for. This will help enhance that feeling of individuality that is directly affiliated with a child’s confidence in himself.

2)   Limit Gesturing – Children who lack the ability to express themselves verbally tend to gesture instead. Your child may replace speech with gesturing and this needs to stop. Do not encourage this as this will encourage him to give up on speech completely.  Thus when he points to the juice, don’t give him the juice right away. Ask him instead: “Would you like some juice? Would you like some  J-u-i-c-e?” and wait to see if he tries to say ‘juice’ or ‘ju’ or ‘ssss’ after you ask him this a few times. Hold the juice out and keep saying “J-u-i-c-e” a few time until he understands that you want him to say juice before you give it to him. BUT, if he gets frustrated and cries, give it to him and say j-u-i-c-e one last time, because you don’t want to frustrate him too early on.

3)   Quiet time with mummy – Get a big coloring book with lots of pictures of animals, buildings, inanimate objects, etc and sit with him on the floor for ‘quiet time’ with mummy. This time is not quiet because you’re not talking, but because there should be no one else around to disturb the two of you. Thus, send the other kids to play with daddy or put them to sleep. Just fifteen minutes is all it takes to make him feel special and different (in a good way) to the other siblings. As you are coloring together, point to things informally and say their names clearly and slowly. Say it a few times in the hopes that he will say it back. He may not respond the first few times you do this, but keep trying. Make sure to praise him excitedly when he finally makes an attempt. Like if you say ‘Cookie!” and he say “CCChh-eee” be happy about it and show him how excited you are that he spoke.

4)   Playing with animals – Now most children show interest in animals. They are funny-looking, furry and fabulous. When my son showed absolutely no interest in animals I was very concerned about this. Especially as his older brother is a ‘die-hard’ nature lover. We tried carrying him to the zoo, bringing doves right up to him, carrying him to see farms, etc. But…no reaction. Although, what I did notice was that he wanted to react to animals like birds and dogs by his ‘blank stare’; it almost seemed as if he didn’t know ‘how’ to react. So I tried holding him, going up to the bird cage and making the sound the bull-finch bird made by whistling. The bull-finch responded by whistling the same way…then I noticed my toddler making funny movements with his lips; he was trying to whistle to the bird! Yaay! So it was not that he wasn’t interested in animals. It’s just that he didn’t know what to do with animals or how to behave around them.
After that incident, I carried him by the dog we keep for security, and threw a little pebble through the cage, the dog dived for the pebble and started playing with it. Everyday since, my toddler has been walking up to the dog cage, and throwing pebbles, old toys and just laughing as the dog grabbed them up to play with them. Although he is still a little shy around animals, we also noticed that ever since he started showing an interest in the dog and turtles, he also started talking. It was almost simultaneous! It’s as if that extra form of socializing had opened him up a little, or maybe a lot!

5)   Help other kids to help him talk – When other children are around, ask them questions clearly. For example, “ Would you like to have some more?” Let them answer, then turn to him and say “Would you like to have some more?”…Do this a few times clearly and he may just answer you, or try to. Children going through this phase tend to show a preference for ‘imitating others’ at first. This guides them into find their own voice. It helps them to understand and apply what they simple ‘copy’ from others. Until finally, they will be forming sentences and ideas of their very own.

6)   Puppets! – Children respond to puppets. I don’t know why, but it’s true! Have little puppet shows at home. There are also many alphabet puppet shows online that you can download (both Arabic and English) for them to watch. Don’t worry about the ‘bi-lingual thing’. They won’t get confused. Remember, just because they aren’t talking, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as smart as other kids out there. This was something the speech therapist said to me, and turns out she was right! She said “children are sponges at this age and it would be a shame not to utilize those brains by not introducing them to different languages as toddlers”. My son now sings both the Arabic and English alphabet without any overlapping. Alhamdulillah!

“Trust me, when they start ‘yapping’ all the time, you’ll be begging them to keep quiet!!:p On a closing note, children who go through this phase, usually start talking from about 2 ½ to 3 years old. And when they start they won’t stop! It all happens very fast and you’ll enjoy every minute of it Inshaa Allah!

“May Allah(swt) give us the patience and perseverance we need for parenting…Ameen!!!

Yours Truly,
Azizah…

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…Comments from My Readers…
“Salaam,through my experience as a pre-school teacher/mother of two creative children…I noticed boys are a little slower in communication(talking)…to my humble opinion…boys tend to listen more than girls…boys have this ability of focusing, depth and understanding. Usually…parents will come to me with this question,..”why my son isn’t speaking yet?”…my answer will be…”your son is smart, intelligent and focusing…it is just he didn’t want people to know that yet!”…I received wonderful responds from parents after I answered their question.^_^…May Allah bless our children around the world…Ameen…
Pre-School Mummy, Malaysia (Wednesday, 27th January, 2010)

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