Neurodiversity in Children

My son is 3 and won’t speak

Published: 02 Jul 2013
My son is 3 and won’t speak

Dear Dr Justin,

My son is three years and one month old and he speaks only few words like bye bye, papa, mummy etc. And if he wants something for him then he points for that thing with his hand.

So, can u tell me is there anything to worry. please give me suggestion.

In this situation, I believe that your concern is entirely appropriate. From a developmental perspective, your son is certainly ‘behind the curve’. Usually we would expect two-word sentences around the age of two years.

Psychologists refer to this as telegraphic speech, and it might include phrases like “Mum, milk”, or “Dad, cuddle.” Kids at this age convey a meaningful sentence in just two or three words, leaving out thearticles such as “and, or” etc.

In speaking to speech pathologists, there appears to be an increasing number of children who are well behind the norms in relation to speech and language development. In fact it’s becoming so common, according to at least one speech pathologist I spoke to, that some are calling for new ‘norms’ to be created, since later development seems to be the new norm.

While I have my suspicions as to why this is happening (we don’t talk to our kids as much as we used to, and there’s too much screen time), this is not really the point of my reply to you here.

So, what needs to be done?

I strongly recommend that you take your son to a speech pathologist as soon as you can. The speech pathologist should do three checks to discover what may be occurring:

1. A hearing check.

2. Comprehension check. It may be that your son is comprehending what you say to him via contextual cues rather than the words you are saying. For example, he may see you pick up your keys, and so he knows that means ‘shoes on and in the car’. You may be saying the words and thinking he understands you, but instead, he is only doing what he should due to the context.

3. Oro-motor check. This mean that the speech pathologist will investigate the way that your son moves his lips and tongue.

There is every chance that your son is fine, but is simply beginning his speech and language development a little later than most. Some kids talk lots, some kids talk later – and then they talk lots! Some kids are stubborn. Some kids think their gestures and contextual comprehension are enough and they don’t seem motivated to learn to talk.

Regardless, you need to rule out issues around hearing, comprehension, and oro-motor capacity, and your speech pathologist is the person to help you.


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