Children Reaching Age 3 Without Being
Able To Say A Word, Survey Finds
Children are reaching the age of 3 without being able to say
a word, according to a survey that also found boys are almost
twice as likely to struggle to learn to speak as girls.
The average age for a baby to speak their first word is 10 to
11 months. However, a significant minority (4 per cent) of parents
reported that their child said nothing until they were 3.
Toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3 should be able to use up
to 300 words, including adjectives, and be able to link words
together, according to I CAN, the childrens communication
charity. Late speech development can lead to problems, such as
low achievement at school or mental health problems.
The survey of more than 1,000 parents found that a childs
background was not a factor in how quickly they learnt to talk.
Working parents who put their babies in day care are just as likely
to have a child whose speech develops late as those who leave
their baby in front of the television.
Virginia Beardshaw, the chief executive of I CAN, said that learning
to talk required help and encouragement. We know there is
a golden period for developing childrens communication between
0 and 5 and that early intervention is vital if children are struggling,
she said. Chatting to your child, playing word games, pointing
things out and having fun together every day all give your child
the right start to communication.
Parents should interact as much as possible, reading stories
and talking to their children to encourage them to start talking,
speech therapists advise. They say that dummies should only be
resorted to at bedtime so children are free to make sounds and
form words during the day.
More girls than boys (34 per cent against 27 per cent) said their
first word before they reached nine months, the YouGov poll of
1,015 parents of children aged 1 to 7 found.
Almost one in six parents reported that their child had problems
learning to talk. Among parents of boys the figure rose to one
The vast majority (95 per cent) of parents remembered their childs
first word. The most common was Dadda (15 per cent),
with 10 per cent saying Mama first. Besides parental
names the top word was cat, followed by car
and no. Some more unusual choices were beer,
gadget, hoover and even tits-up.
Girls were quicker to join words together, with more than 20
per cent having done so by the age of 1, compared to 16 per cent
of boys. Almost one quarter of those who had problems learning
to talk did not receive any help from a speech and language therapist,
nursery or playgroup staff.
Jean Gross, the Governments new adviser on childhood language
development, said that it was a real problem that children as
old as 3 were unable to talk. It has lifelong effects for
children in terms of their ability to learn to read and write,
Ms Gross said childhood health targets were too focused on obesity
levels and immunisation rates at the expense of more subtle difficulties.
All of those surveyed last month reported looking at picture
books with their child, telling stories, playing word games and
singing nursery rhymes, with boys and girls enjoying these activities
equally and at a similar age.
However, children from more affluent families were said to enjoy
doing so at a younger age than children from less affluent families.
Eighty per cent of parents knew that the correct response if
their child mispronounced a word was to repeat it back to them
in the correct way.
Case study: 'He's now chatty and sociable'
Lee Rose reached the age of 3 able to say only five words. His
parents were not worried. I had no other children to compare
him with and his father was a late talker, said Emma Rose,
Doctors and health visitors did not pick up the problem. It was
not until Lees nursery teachers noticed that he lashed out
at another child in frustration that concerns were raised. After
an assessment he was referred to an I CAN centre a mainstream
nursery school with a specialist speech and language department
and a support group for parents.
Lee spent 12 months at the centre. It was the one-to-one
help that he needed and early intervention, said Mrs Rose.
Now 8, he is in the top group for all his lessons at primary school.
They have turned my little boys life around. He is
chatty, sociable and has lots of friends. Mrs Rose, 39,
a former hospital technician, is retraining as a speech and language
January 4, 2010