What Causes Speech Problems In Toddlers

Every parent looks forward to the day when their baby will say his/her first word. But this milestone may be delayed in some children, while a few others may develop speech problems like stuttering or poor articulation or regression in speech or other speech disorders.

Toddler Speech Milestones

A look at the speech milestones may help you recognize whether your child's skills are normal for the age, or if there is any problem. In case of the latter, you will thus be able to seek medical help.


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Normal Toddler Development
  • Between 7 to 12 months, a baby turns to look at the direction of a sound and responds when spoken to. They imitate a few speech sounds and babble. They may begin to speak a word or two, but these may not be quite clear.
  • Between 1 to 2 years, a child points to body parts or pictures in a book when asked. They can understand a few simple questions and commands, and can put together one or two words.Between 2 and 3 years, they are able to speak in short 2 or 3 word sentences, ask for some common things, and name common objects around them.
  • By 3 or 4 years, a child’s speech becomes clearer. A child can understand simple questions, answer them and talk about activities at a friend’s place or at school.

Causes of Toddler Speech Problems

  • Developmental abnormalities: A toddler who does not speak at all or cannot articulate properly or has unclear speech could be diagnosed with some mental or developmental retardation or abnormalities.
  • Psychological reasons: Some speech regressions (a child who has had a large vocabulary suddenly begins to speak less or becomes totally silent) may be caused by mental or psychological problems. A severe emotional trauma sometimes triggers off a speech regression.

  • Bad oral habits: Specialists have found that thumb sucking, nail biting or teeth grinding can sometimes lead to certain speech problems like poor articulation.
  • Environment: A child learns speech through hearing. Sometimes, the parents, or older siblings, or a nanny who is looking after the child may be pronouncing words wrongly or they may have poor articulation. This is picked up by the child.
  • Physical causes: Sometimes allergies which restrict the nasal airway (adenoids) or enlarged tonsils may cause speech to sound abnormal. A cleft palate also hinders proper speech. Sometimes, the lingual frenum (an attachment under the tongue) may be tight or too short. This restricts the child’s ability to raise the tongue to make certain sounds. A hearing impairment may also hinder a child from picking up speech.
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