Q: I have a 2-year-old boy who says five words at the most. He usually just points and grunts to express his wants and needs. He does understand us when we ask him to do stuff for us. For instance, if we ask him to go get or go do something, he comprehends. We have tried everything.
A: Think about when you and your husband developed language. Were you late bloomers? Do you have other family members who developed language at a later age? It’s important to consider your family history. If you haven’t already, share your concerns with the pediatrician to monitor your child’s language development over time.
In the meantime, encourage as much language as possible at home. Don’t respond immediately when your son points or grunts. If he is pointing to the milk, for example, ask, “Do you want milk?” If he nods, say, “Yes, milk, Mommy” and pause. If he doesn’t repeat your phrase, say, “Now you try. Yes, milk, Mommy” and wait. If he starts by saying only one word, reward his effort by giving him the milk. If he starts crying or screaming, wait patiently and don’t say anything. When he is done crying or screaming, calmly say, “Yes, milk, Mommy” and wait for him to repeat. In essence, you will respond to requests when he uses words. He will resist your efforts initially, but be consistent from hour to hour and day to day.
When you are taking a walk, point to all the different objects, animals, etc., that you see and identify them out loud. Ask him to repeat the words. Say, “I see a squirrel. Do you see the squirrel?” Wait for him to respond. Also, read picture books with him and identify different illustrated objects. Ask him, “Where is the butterfly?” After he points to it, say, “Butterfly. Can you say butterfly?” and wait for him to repeat.
You can also maintain a journal. You can chart his progress by writing the words, dates, and strategies you used to gain an understanding of how to continue helping him. And encourage all family members to use the same strategies. You can also contact your town or county’s Early Intervention Services to request a speech evaluation. Your child may be eligible for speech services to help with his language development.