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Advice for Parents

Speech Delay and Coming Second

Q: Our first son was talking up a storm by age two, but his little brother doesn’t seem to be picking it up as well. He follows directions, so we know he hears just fine. A friend has suggested looking into a delayed language specialist.Thoughts?

A: All children develop at their own pace and there can often be wide discrepancies between siblings and the reaching of developmental milestones. You indicated that your son can follow directions. Can he communicate or make his needs known? For example, does his older brother interpret for him or does he use signals or signs to make his wants known? Or are you often at a loss as to what your youngest son needs and wants?

An average two-year-old has a vocabulary of 50 words and can be understood by primary caregivers at least half the time. If you believe that your son is not at that level, I would encourage you to make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician can advise you if your son should see a speech language pathologist who can conduct a thorough evaluation of your son.

Speech delays can occur for a variety of reasons such as an oral impairment or a hearing problem. The speech pathologist will work with you to develop the best course of treatment for your son and early intervention services can be provided if necessary. The ability to communicate – both understanding what others are saying and being able to express one’s self – is critical to healthy development.

When a child has delays in communication, it can affect other areas such as frustration tolerance and behavior. Your willingness to ask the questions and seek assistance if necessary will help your son overcome any delay he may be experiencing.

Q: I sometimes feel guilty that my four-year-old daughter doesn’t have the same structure and routine that her older brothers had. But with their activities and school schedule, she often needs to be out at their practices in the evenings. How can I be sure she is getting everything she needs?

A: I think one of the most interesting aspects of having more than one child is watching how that child develops and adapts to her family. Of course a routine was easier to establish with your oldest child – I would imagine that probably the entire family was pretty much centered on his schedule. And as your family expanded, so did your routines. Structure and routine are important for all children and your daughter probably has more of a routine than you think.

For example, soccer practice every Monday night can be her time to play outside with other younger siblings as the older ones practice. This is like a playgroup you used to have for her brothers. Overall, how does she seem to you? Because there are more evening activities, it is important to make sure she is getting enough sleep. At the age of four, she should still be getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Does she wake up on her own in the morning or do you have to wake her? Having to wake her can be an indicator of being too tired. She may still need to nap or have quiet time in the afternoon to help her get adequate rest. Typically, younger siblings are more flexible and social than older siblings. These can be positive characteristics that will benefit her throughout her life.

It is important that she has her own activities and a voice in your family. These are also important to ensure that she is getting everything she needs.

Denise Noble is a mom of two and has master’s degree in counselor education. She is affiliated with, the parenting education arm of Greater Richmond SCAN, and has coached parents and worked with families for nearly twenty years.
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