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Although it's not typical, your 2-year-old's situation is not necessarily cause for great concern, either. Some more cautious and reserved 2-year-olds tend to wait until they understand a great deal of what they hear before they actually speak. Look for these signs of language readiness:
- Does your child point to objects? Pointing to a toy he wants or to a picture in a book is closely related to the beginning of actual speech.
- Does he seem to understand what you say? Does he react when you call his name when you're out of sight? The ability to understand language precedes the ability to talk. If your child seems to comprehend a great deal of what others are saying, he's well on his way to talking.
- Does your child use gestures and facial expressions to communicate? Many kids communicate what they need nonverbally, and in fact most 2-year-olds develop a host of nonverbal signals.
- Does your child grunt? Research shows that the little grunts 2-year-olds make while pointing to pictures or playing with their toys are actually a kind of commentary. Children who aren't yet talking and don't grunt are more likely to later be diagnosed with a language delay.
If your child isn't showing these signs of readiness, you may want to make an appointment for a speech and hearing screening. Talk with his pediatrician, and, if he's in preschool, with his teacher. His preschool may refer you to an early speech and language intervention program (usually coordinated through the county or public school system) that will provide a free speech and language screening. Or his doctor can refer you to a private speech-language pathologist for an evaluation. In general, the earlier a language delay is detected, the easier it is to treat. Many language problems can be treated effectively during the preschool years so that your child will have no long-term deficits.