‘Don’t compare your child’s progress to another child’s’ - as parents we hear this all the time. However, when your child seemingly misses a ‘milestone’, you do have to stop and ask - is anyone else’s 14-month old not talking? It’s hard not to wonder if something is wrong.
From the moment your pregnancy is confirmed, you start to imagine how your little one will be when they’re born.
You’re so excited to meet them, to see who they resemble, to teach them new things, talk with them. In some sense, it forces you to pay attention to milestones and wonder about even the smallest of details.
It can be very alarming to realize that your child doesn't seem to be developing within the expected timeline or even in relation to your other children or children around you. With all sorts of theories courtesy of Google relating to developmental delays and disabilities, it is understandable to be somewhat worried.
Alternately, you’ll likely be given advice from other parents to ‘enjoy the silence while it lasts’, because once kids start talking, they never seem to stop!
So, is it really cause for concern or is your child just a late bloomer?
What Are Developmental Milestones?
Milestones are not set in stone - pardon the pun. They are simply guidelines for the average time it takes children to develop certain skills.
While it is important that parents do not stick to these milestones hard and fast, it is even more important that they monitor the progress of their child and match it to the expected rate of development in a more universal sense.
If it is that your child has ‘missed’ a milestone, then it is good to act early and determine why this is and how best to assist your child, if needed, as this could completely change the outcome.
The most typical developmental milestones in infancy include:
Milestone Age Range
Sitting without support
7 - 9 months
7 - 9 months
8 - 12 months
Appropriately using the words mama and dada
8 - 12 months
Understanding "NO" and will respond to the command
10 - 12 months
Drinking from a cup
10 - 12 months
By the time your child reaches 14 months, he/she is expected to have learnt these skills but what about talking - when is that expected to start?
So Much To Say, So Little Time!
Speech and language are different and their differences must be highlighted when looking at a child's development.
Speech deals with verbal expressions - such as sounds - while language deals with the complexities of communication - verbal and non-verbal cues - that are used to transfer information.
By their first birthday, children are usually making sounds, experimenting with the words they hear every day. While they might not sound clear - this is actually also a part of their development.
Babies between the ages of 12 and 15 months old usually start saying common words like mama, dada, ball, water, no - words that they hear often and associate with people or objects. It isn't normally until around their second birthday that children get more sophisticated with their expressions - stringing together words to make sentences.
What Can You Do as a Parent?
1. Check for Physical Impairments
The first step is to speak with your physician to confirm that there are no physical reasons for your child’s perceived delay. Once you confirm that your little one had a recent check-up, you can rule out any hearing issues.
This is great news! The fact that your child is making sounds, trying to say words, responds to verbal commands and has no hearing problems means that they are quite likely just a late bloomer. This is not to say you should overlook this - quite the opposite. You can add activities to your child’s routine that will help them achieve this milestone.
2. Communicate With Your Child
When tracking your child’s development, especially communication skills, your physician usually checks how much your child is communicated with. Though conversation may happen around your child, how much of it is actually directed to your child?
By communicating directly with your little one and properly enunciating your words, you capture their attention and they are engaged. They will then learn from and mimic the movements of your lips in order to better form words and your facial expressions to add non-verbal cues. This is a great way to help them learn to communicate and can also do wonders for their social development.
3. Narrate Your Actions
It is important to find ways to include the words that your child already knows into regular conversation. This can encourage them to discover new words derived from words that relate to this area of familiarity.
For example, if your little one understands the command ‘throw the ball’ which means those words resonate. Point to the ball - let them know this is a ball, this is how you throw it and this is how you kick it or bounce it.
It also helps to narrate your actions during their regular daily routine such as getting ready for school.
4. Respect their Pace
When you worry as a parent, it tends to follow on from anxiety and anticipation. Anticipation may make you feel impatient and that impatience could further delay your child’s ability to speak.
Try to remain calm as you communicate with them or when they stumble on sounds. Remember, they are learning too so it will take some time. They are learning a whole new language from scratch and they haven’t been on earth for long enough yet to perfect it.
Everyone learns at a different pace. Let them feel comfortable to make new sounds or stick to old ones for a while.
It’s sometimes hard as a parent not to worry about your child’s development or compare their progress with other children.
If your child has no physical signs of a disability and seems to respond to other communication cues then chances are that they may just be late bloomers and simply need more encouragement.
Talk with them more, put names to the objects and people they are most familiar with and most importantly, respect their pace.
As always, speak with your physician if you have any reason to think your child's delay is due to a possible impairment.
The sooner you identify the cause, the sooner you can get help and the better the outcome will be.
We hope you’re feeling more at ease! For those moms who had late bloomers - at what age did your child start to speak? What was their first big word? Share with us in the comments section below.