Reality Check: Speechless at 2
Q. My 2-year-old doesn't speak much, but she hears and understands fine. Though my wife and I aren't worried, other adults often treat our daughter as if she's slow. What should we do?
A. When all signs (including your own gut feelings) indicate that your child's fine and merely traveling at her own developmental pace, the best thing you can do for her is to have faith that everything will work out -- which is what you seem to be doing. Keep in mind, too, that the range of what's considered normal for speech development is very broad, and age 2 isn't so far from the middle of the spectrum.
As for the other people in your child's life, the little things you say and do can have a positive influence on the way they interact with her. My neighbor Joyce's son, Evan, barely spoke until he was 3: "I found myself constantly explaining to people that his hearing was normal, his receptive language was good, and that they were free to tell him anything, because he'd understand," she says.
At times, her volunteering information about Evan felt awkward for her, as well as for the friends, teachers, and relatives on the receiving end. But it did change the way these people treated her son. They stopped ignoring, talking down to, and speaking loudly at him.
She also decided to disregard some advice she'd gotten from a speech therapist: "She wanted me to force Evan to say the words to get what he wanted," Joyce says. "I didn't want to push him to talk. I knew what he wanted, and as his mother I couldn't ignore that." As we all know from our various relationships, trying to force someone to change is generally a losing battle.
Now 7, Evan has no trouble saying what he wants to say when he wants to say it. He talks as much as any little boy, and uses his perfectly good brain in his own way.
Contributing editor Trisha Thompson is a former editor-in-chief of BabyTalk magazine.