Merry Christmas Eve! Family get-togethers are the best, but those awkward questions our families ask can be the worst! I think most first time moms and many experienced moms feel a bit anxious about their child’s development. So when family members start asking us awkward (and sometimes rude) questions about our child’s speech and language skills, it’s hard to know what to say.
Nobody knows your family better than you, and I these suggestions may not work for everybody. That being said, These are my tips for responding to these awkward questions about your child’s speech.
Tip 1: emphasize what your child CAN do. When someone asks that awkward “is he talking yet?” question, I would respond with a “not yet but he is…” and list some pre-linguistic skills your child demonstrates. Many skills emerge as precursors to speech such as babbling, pointing to desired items, and engaging in social games such as peek-a-boo or rolling a ball back and forth. Or for Van I might respond by saying, “A little bit. He’s got a few words he’ll say on his own and loves to talk about Maxx”. Most of my family is sweet, and I know they are just asking because they’re excited to be able to talk with him. So I try to give them something I know he’ll be interested in (Maxx, our dog). That way when they inevitably turn to Van and start trying to get him to speak, they have a better chance of getting a happy response!
Tip 2: Know what’s typical and share it! Unless someone is around young children often, they may not remember or know what’s typical for a certain age. So when your extended family asks “why’s he talk so funny?” you can inform him or her that your little one is just going through the motions of learning to speak. It’s typical to only understand about 25% of your child’s speech at 18 months. And strangers (or people your child just isn’t around very often) are going to have a more difficult time understanding your child. An easy way to estimate an age-based appropriate level of intelligibility (aka how well your child’s speech can be understood) is to divide the child’s age in years by 4 to get a percentage. So if your child is 2 years old: 2/4 is 50 percent. Meaning about half of your child’s speech should be understandable to an unfamiliar listener. By age 4, pretty much everything your child says should be understandable(4/4=1, 100%)…articulation may not be perfect, but the listener should be able to understand what your child’s saying.
Children also learn to produce sounds at different ages. This age of acquisition chart from Playing with Words 365 shows the typical range of ages at which children are able to produce certain sounds.
Notice that between ages 2 and 3, there are not many sounds that a child should have mastered. This can make it difficult for adults, especially those that don’t see your child often, to understand what he or she is saying!
Tip 3: Brace yourself for comparisons, but don’t join in! As an SLP I get so irked when people compare children! Just because your 3 nieces said their first word when they were 9 months old doesn’t mean that your child should too! It does not mean that they’ll be more advanced than a child who doesn’t speak until 13 months. There is a wide range of “normal” development. Also “talking” means different things to different people. I consider “talking” to be an independent use of words. Other family members may think imitating words counts as “talking”. And some people even claim their children said “mama” or “dada” at 5 months (which may be true, but at that age the child was only babbling those syllables. Children are not able use meaningful language until several months later). You don’t have to explain all of this to your family member, I just want to emphasize that one person’s definition of “talking” may be a bit different than yours.
I hope you all have a happy holiday season with your families! If you find these tips helpful let me know in the comments or by liking this page! Merry Christmas Eve everyone!!!