Infants and toddlers often have trouble with pronunciation and difficulties putting sentences together. A child between the ages of 18 months and 3 years will generally mispronounce many words. For example, many substitute an “f” or “d” sound for “th” (“I’m taking a baf”) or a “w” sound for an “l” or “r” (“The wion wawed” = “The lion roared”). What you want to watch for is that your toddler’s speech is improving over time. By age 3, most of what your child says should be pretty understandable.
If the problem is not pronunciation but rather that your child isn’t talking or is talking very little, you should act a more quickly. Warning signs are things such as your child not reacting normally or consistently to sounds, being overly sensitive to sounds such as vacuums or hair dryers yet seem indifferent at other times when people call her name, doesn’t learn “bye-bye” or react to games like peek-a-boo, talking using mostly vowels or single words only — no sentences, omitting whole consonants, saying “a” for “cat.” Others could be that they use one catch-all sound or syllable to name most things (“duh” or “duh-duh” is a popular one). They may use a word once and then not use it again frequently or at all. Your child may not point to common objects in books. Or they may answer a question by repeating part of your question. (If you say, “Do you want milk?” responds by saying “Milk!” instead of a head nod or “yes” response — this is called echolalia, and may be an early sign that lots of work is ahead. As with all our disciplines, it is imperative to have the commitment and support of the family throughout the therapy process, which is why home programming is a staple of any successful outcome at MST. This home programming will educate and reinforce specific skills and behaviors which will be used to improve and facilitate the child’s performance and long term functioning.