Early Intervention: A New Beginning
Why is my child’s language delayed? Many parents have said the most frustrating thing about having a toddler that can’t talk is that the only way to convey needs and wants is through whines and tantrums. Often, parents blame themselves for their children’s inability to use language. In many cases, shame is felt regarding the level of frustration they feel toward their child. It may seem easier to wait it out knowing that their toddler will eventually speak, however, the consequences for doing so are sometimes irreparable.
Children who are late talkers, enter kindergarten with fewer language skills than most of their peers. This delay is conveyed in lower reading and phonetic awareness skills in school. By first grade, late talkers struggle with spelling, reading, grammar and, often, an “I can’t do it” attitude is associated activities that require language since this has been a difficult area since toddlerhood.
Children should, from the time they are born, imitate the sounds in their environment and from familiar people. For some, however, imitation stops during the second year or never occurs. With the help of a therapist or caring adult, a small child can be guided to focus on the face of a familiar person and imitate the sounds they are making. Because many children act aggressively due to frustration in not having adequate communication skills, concerns regarding behavior are addressed
and often improve when children acquire new skills through early intervention. The added benefit of positive self-esteem and an ability to connect with peers are the outcomes of healthy language development.
A parent of a toddler in regard to her son’s early intervention experience shared, “Trevor would act fearful around new people or in new places. He
insisted on being carried if we went out of the house and would seem terrified to put his feet on the floor. If other children came around him he would cry and sometimes try to hurt them. I was so embarrassed and frustrated because I wanted my toddler to be happy and sociable. Once his delayed speech was addressed through an intervention program in our area, Trevor’s self-esteem and social skills improved rapidly. About four or five months after the interventionist started coming to our home, Trevor’s fear of new people and new places faded away gradually and steadily. He quickly picked up words which enabled him to tell me how he was feeling and what he wanted and, I think, this helped him feel assured that he would get his needs met even in new situations. I was relieved to see that my shy, fearful and aggressive toddler was transforming into the happy and lovable child I knew him to be on a regular basis. Looking back, it seems like a long time ago that Trevor disliked social situations for all the friends and playmates he sees and interacts with everyday.”
Family dynamics can, at times, play a role in a toddler’s inability to speak. A well-loved child of a large family is sometimes so adored by her older siblings that they answer to her every need with her slightest indication, via a grunt or gesture. A child with a passive temperament matched with doting parents, caring siblings or extended family may not discover the usefulness of language, for not needing it. In this scenario, a child eventually speaks by the age of four, however, may not develop an intrinsic “I can do it” mentality. Rather, this may be the type of child that is referred to as “shy” or have difficulty expressing