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Speech disorder

Q: My son who is 15 months old has not started speaking yet. Sometimes he speaks words like baba etc. but very rarely. He communicates by pointing his finger to the thing he wants (e.g. water). He doesn't appear to have any hearing problem as he gives immediate response on being called. Please guide me the action I should take.

A:Children usually start babbling (making sounds) when they are 5 or 6 months old. Gradually, the actual sounds of the language spoken at home are used by the child. This process varies from one child to another; some children speak early, some start later. This in itself should not be a matter of worry. Since the child can hear (and it is good that the parents have checked it out) I feel sure that spoken language will emerge soon. Sometimes, if the child hears more than one language spoken at home, he may be sorting the sounds out and be slower to say things himself. I have even heard of a child who heard three languages spoken at home and would not use any of them for three years, and then suddenly spoke all three languages in full sentences. This is not to suggest that the same thing will happen, but to point out that there are vast differences in the time periods when children acquire skills. To the parents, I would suggest that they speak clearly to him, mentioning the names of the objects he points to and so on. It would also be a good idea to get picture books and let him see them, while the parent labels the pictures, slowly and with enthusiasm. Talking to the child when feeding him, bathing him and taking him out will also help the child to learn the words. Story telling and singing songs are activities that the child is bound to enjoy. These will make the adults in the family spend more time with the child. If after 3 months of these added inputs, the child does not talk, they could consult a Psychologist. But at present, I feel that the child should be encouraged to talk and play; that is the best treatment.

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