NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN: FAMILIES TODAY:
A TODDLER’S VERBAL CHALLENGES
By: T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.
Q. My son is 2-and-1/2. He speaks in sentences but his verbal exchanges are more descriptive than interactive – almost like a running commentary.
He also has problems “naming” things. He doesn’t seem to grasp the concept. He is sweet and affectionate. He plays well with his younger sister and often interacts with her: He scolds her, brings her toys, tells her what to do, and makes her laugh.
Should I worry?
A. Your child seems bright and engaging, which is reassuring. But those qualities might cause others to overlook the subtle differences you detect. It’s noteworthy when a child who speaks in sentences isn’t naming objects.
When children are learning to speak, they point to things to find out what to call them, to practice naming them or to share their excitement about the words they already know. As you describe it, your son’s approach to expressing himself doesn’t involve the back-and-forth that most children this age can manage.
Perhaps he truly engages in free-flowing conversation with his sister – or she is more tolerant of one-way communication than older children and adults.
Any parent with a lingering concern about a child deserves to have that concern addressed. Mention your observations to your pediatrician. Not every pediatrician, however, has the training to pick up subtle differences in language development. A careful evaluation by a speech and language therapist who is experienced in working with children can help you understand the significance, if any, of the differences you observe.
Some pediatricians might suggest you wait to see if your son will “grow out of it.” But if he needs help, starting early can make an enormous difference.
Responses to questions are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider.
Dr. Brazelton heads the Brazelton Touchpoints Project, which promotes and supports community initiatives that are collaborative, strength-based, prevention-focused sources of support for families raising children in our increasingly stressful world. Dr. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist, is Director of Strategy, Planning and Program Development at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. Learn more about the Center at www.touchpoints.org.
Reprinted with permission from the authors.