Oh mercy, it’s amazing how much worry comes with being a parent–even before the baby is born! Is my child developing “on time” is one of the biggest. On the one hand, we see other babies who are doing things “sooner” than our child. On the other hand, ours is doing things “sooner” than someone else’s. There’s such a range for normal development; it’s not easy to sort out when there is or isn’t a problem.

When there is a problem, noticing it and diagnosing it early is always better. While early intervention is no “miracle cure,” it, combined with the incredible flexibility of the human brain in the early years, can make an incredible difference.

So what about speech delays? Dr. Perri Klass gives helpful perspective and guidelines here on when to be concerned and seek help.

I’d like to highlight two points that he raises as well.

First, is the importance of speech in the home and with the child. Language is a social event. It cannot be learned without “live people” to speak with. For babies and toddlers, that “speaking with” includes all the times that we as adults respond to their coo’s, babbles, and one word utterances. When those interactions do not take place, language cannot develop. And just to be clear about this, TV and computers cannot do this job. A child may hear them but machines do not interact. A child cannot learn language from a TV or computer;  in fact research shows that TV and computers delay speech development in young children. Talking with your child is essential throughout the birth to age six years.

Second, the importance of talking and reading in other than English speaking and/or bilingual homes is mentioned–but one important point is missing. As Klass eludes to, the language interactions can be in any language as long as the interactions are plentiful. And children can easily learn more than one language at a time (for instance, Spanish at home and English at day care). These children will initially have what appears to be a language delay. It isn’t–not in the sense of a delay that’s a problem. Children learning two languages at once will develop their expressive (spoken) language a bit later than peers learning only one language. When they start speaking, though, they will have both languages “down.” This is normal development and not a problem.

Keep talking!