Regressive speech behavior from my toddler?

(March 24, 2010)

In the first few weeks after birth, babies spend most of their time sleeping, feeding or crying. At this age they are not very responsive to people or other stimuli around them. It’s only later that they begin to smile and socialize. And what we look forward to is the time they begin to talk.

While there is no exact age when a baby begins to talk, there are certain average speech milestones, and if baby is not achieving those, it can cause a parent to worry. In some cases, a few toddlers babble quite a bit, but suddenly begin to show signs of regression. A more-or-less fluent talker may relapse into monosyllables, or stop talking altogether, while some may stutter or falter or repeat words. While some reactions are part of the normal facet of growth, some could indicate more serious causes like autism, hearing disability or certain regressive behavior.

There are some indicators that you would normally find if there is healthy development. An absence of any of these milestones could suggest the presence of some disorder.  This of course is not necessarily true, as many kids who were silent and began talking comparatively late, turn out to be a lot more talkative. Most parents can testify to this, but in most cases you would notice some of these milestones. By the end of the first year, a baby coos, blows bubbles, starts with monosyllables like ‘ma, pa or ba’ and may even be putting two syllables like ‘mama, dada, papa’ together.  In the second year, they learn more words every day and by the end of the year can even put together 2 word phrases. Their vocabulary now may have about 50 words. In the third year, their vocabulary expands faster, and they can speak sentences containing 3 to 5 words. By age four, their speech is usually clear enough to be understood by people other than family.

If you suspect your child of suffering from regressive speech behavior, and find any of the normal milestones in speech development to be missing, then consult your doctor for an evaluation. This is not a diagnosis that can be made at home.

•    At times this could be caused by too much excitement, fear or fatigue, since the child still requires great effort to master talking.
•    Allergies or enlarged tonsils may restrict the nasal airway, and push the tongue forward, making it flaccid and unable to articulate properly.
•    Bad habits like thumb sucking, nail biting or teeth grinding may cause speech distortion.
•    Developmental abnormalities like mental retardation, autism, mental or psychological trauma, hearing problems or even a cleft palate could cause regression in speech behavior.
•    An accident or illness (a tumor or meningitis) which traumatizes the brain could also be possible causes.

When children begin to talk, their speech abilities may differ from day to day. Be patient, and don’t hurry them to finish, or frown, or complete their sentences for them. Don’t interrupt. Encourage the child to keep on talking. Trust your instincts, and if you feel something is still not right, consult your doctor or a speech therapist.

Submitted by P T on March 24, 2010 at 02:25

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