A lot of mothers complain about their children’s speech, either they are not talking at the age they are expected to or they are not forming words properly. It can be a distressing moment for parents especially the mothers. Every mother desires a healthy child. 

Panicking and complaining up and down is not the solution. If by the age of 2years the child hasn’t even started saying 1 or 2 words or isn’t saying words clearly by age 4, then it’s time to take the child to the hospital for an assessment by the doctor or a speech pathologist.

Here are warning or alert signs of a possible speech problem in a child:

Between 12 and 24 months, reasons for concern include a child who:
  • isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye, by 12 months
  • prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate at 18 months
  • has trouble imitating sounds by 18 months
  • has difficulty understanding simple verbal requests
Seek an evaluation if a child over 2 years old:
  • can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously
  • says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs
  • can’t follow simple directions
  • has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
  • is more difficult to understand than expected for his or her age. Parents and regular caregivers should understand about half of a child’s speech at 2 years and about three quarters at 3 years. By 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.

There are many things that can cause delayed speech in a child and below are common causes (apart from spiritual! lol!):
1. Genetic – it might be a problem that is in the genes of that family. Make sure you are not marrying your bother or sister, even your cousin. 
2. Familial – it might be a condition that runs in the family where you have the ‘late-starters’. Maybe the child’s father or mother talked late. This is similar in children who suck their thumb or fingers, even nail-biting.
3. Oral impairments – problems with the palate (cleft palate) or the tongue (short frenulum)
4. Ear infections – maybe the child suffered a lot of ear infections that was not properly treated. If the child is not hearing, then how do you expect the child to talk?
5. Minimal to No Exposure to words – if the child is not used to hearing words like from people or the television, please don’t expect too much!

Meanwhile, before you jump into the conclusion of ‘Speech Problem’, here are some home tips on how you can improve your child’s speech:

First and foremost, like so many other things, speech development is a mixture of nature and nurture. Genetic makeup will, in part, determine intelligence and speech and language development. However, a lot of it depends on environment. Is a child adequately stimulated at home or at childcare? Are there opportunities for communication exchange and participation? What kind of feedback does the child get?

1. Spend a lot of time communicating with your child
     I advice mothers to start learning the art of communicating with your child right from when they are still in the womb, so that by the time their child is born, they won’t have a hard time talking to them physically. Forget the fact that they may not necessarily understand what you are saying, but with time,they will. A parent should learn to talk properly to her child about everything. She should talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.

2. Read to your child
    This might not be a typical Nigerian set up but it sure helps. The more words the child is exposed to, the better his or her speech. You can start as early as 6months. You don’t have to finish a whole book, but look for age-appropriate soft or board books or picture books that encourage kids to look while you name the pictures. Later, let your child point to recognizable pictures and try to name them. Then move on to nursery rhymes, which have rhythmic appeal. 

3. Use everyday situations to reinforce your child’s speech and language.
    In other words, talk your way through the day. For example, name foods at the grocery store, explain what you’re doing as you cook a meal or clean a room, point out objects around the house, and as you drive, point out sounds you hear. Ask questions and acknowledge your child’s responses (even when they’re hard to understand).

4. Never use ‘Baby Talk’
    A lot of parents have such bad habit of using baby talk. If your child pronounces words that sound funny, correct him or her immediately. It is wrong to imitate that child (who is the baby then?)

Whatever your child’s age, recognizing and treating problems early on is the best approach to help with speech and language delays. Please do not live in denial like some of our sisters- in- christ will say, “It’s my enemy who has speech problem”.


  1. This is a very good advice and well done for this piece of write up. I hope all mothers got this message clear and act on it now before it get too late


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