It’s normal for a baby to use gestures, such as pointing or crying in order to communicate a desire or tell you they need something. However, by 2 years of age this habit should decrease significantly and be replaced by the use of words and short phrases. If your toddler is frequently using nonverbal communication such as pointing, crying or grabbing, encourage them to use their words to get what they want.
YOUR CHILD IS HAVING DIFFICULTY ANSWERING QUESTIONS
By 1 to 2 years of age, children begin understanding and answering simple questions. For instance, if you ask “Where’s the ball?” they can retrieve or point to it. They also begin answering “Yes/No” questions with a head shake/nod. As a child continues to learn, they begin answering more complex questions and are able to formulate more sophisticated responses. If a child has language difficulties, they will often repeat words of a question back to you as a strategy to compensate. For example, if you ask, “Where did Daddy go?” a child might respond “Daddy go”. Try giving a choice of two options to help support comprehension (e.g., “Is he inside or outside?”).
YOUR CHILD HAS LIMITED VOCABULARY
A child’s vocabulary grows as they have repeated exposure to a variety of words. Children typically understand a greater number of words than they are able to say. By three, they should have a vocabulary of at least 500 words. Children with vocabulary difficulties frequently use very general language to communicate. For example, they might say, “I want it” or “that thing” instead of using the item’s specific name.
YOUR CHILD IS NOT PUTTING WORDS INTO SENTENCES
As a child’s vocabulary grows, they begin stringing words into more complex phrases and sentences. Children usually begin combining words into short phrases around 24 months of age or after they have a vocabulary of at least 35 to 50 words. Sometimes children are able to put sentences together, but they are not using appropriate grammatical endings or are confusing certain verb tenses. Difficulty formulating complex sentences may be an indication that a child needs a speech and language assessment.
If you recognize any of these red flags in your child’s development, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. The earlier a child starts receiving appropriate treatment, the faster their communication skills can grow.