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Talking, Delayed

I’m concerned my two-year-old isn’t talking yet. How did you cope with this?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply:

I noticed pretty early on that my son wasn’t as verbal as my daughter had been as a toddler. At the time, I kept thinking, He’s such a good, quiet baby! I wasn’t really worried about it.

When I took my son to his two-year-old well baby visit, the pediatrician told me that he hadn’t hit a milestone and that we should look into it. I didn’t take it very seriously. But I did follow through on the evaluation. It took about six months to go through the proper steps to have my son’s speech evaluated, but we did then find out that something was wrong.

I encourage parents that if their child’s pediatrician suggests checking into something, do so right away. If I had ignored her suggestion and hadn’t pursued it, we would have been behind the eight ball when my son started school. If you check into it, and everything comes back normal, that’s great! But if there’s a problem, it’s better to get help sooner rather than later.

My son received special speech services until first grade, and now he’s all caught up with his peers.

Ann V. Arthur, MD, a mom of a 10-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, a pediatric ophthalmologist in private practice at Park Slope Eye Care Associates, in New York City, and a blogger at www.waterwinetravel.com

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: During my kids’ toddler years, the lack of verbal skills typical for this age presented a challenge. I tried to focus by helping them develop their language skills. When my toddlers tried unsuccessfully to communicate something to me, I would make eye contact, clearly verbalize what I thought they wanted or needed, and I repeated a single word.

For example, if my son was throwing a fit because he wanted a snack, I’d say, “Please, snack, please.” When he expressed anything with good vibes, I’d say, “Yes, you may have a snack, please and thank you. Good work using your words, please, snack. Johnny said please snack, good work.”

We parents must remember to be patient with toddlers because they understand so much more than they are able to communicate. We must also remember to be consistent in encouraging verbal communication, and of course have patience during the learning process. Don’t forget to show appreciation for any genuine attempt from your toddler.

Hana R. Solomon, MD, a mom who raised four children, a grandmom of three, a board-certified pediatrician, the president of BeWell Health, LLC, and the author of Clearing The Air One Nose At A Time, Caring For Your Personal Filter, in Columbia, MO

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: One of the hardest things about toddlers is that they want to be independent and do things by themselves, but they can’t communicate that yet. I found the best way to help my toddlers was to be patient and try to communicate with them on their level by giving them choices and using a lot of pointing to supplement their words. Another thing that helps is to keep in mind that your toddler will be talking soon, and then he’ll be talking nonstop.

My oldest three children were all late talkers. When my oldest daughter was 18 months old, she only spoke a couple of words. She wasn’t really putting any words together into sentences yet. That was concerning.

I talked with her pediatrician about it at her two-year checkup. She connected us with Early Intervention, and my daughter received speech therapy for about a year. The therapist came to our home once a week, for about a half hour each visit.

I learned a lot of very helpful things by watching the therapist, and I was better able to help my younger daughter and sons to learn to talk. For example, we’d play games that involved naming things, and any time I could name an item, I did.

Sometimes parents put off talking with their pediatricians about speech delays. But I think it never hurts to at least call them and have an evaluation done.

Kristie McNealy, MD, a mom of nine- and six-year-old daughters and four-year-old and 22-month-old sons and a blogger at www.KristieMcNealy.com, in Denver, CO

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.