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[ Infants / Toddlers ] Speech Delay

"My son is two years old, but he is still not talking yet."

"Well, boys usually take a little longer to develop their speech."

"Perhaps my child's speech is developing too slowly because I leave him with maid and grandparents while I am at work."

"Should I be worried? Should I bring him to see a doctor regarding this concern?"

Parents may have their own experiences and beliefs about speech delay in children but some of these beliefs are merely myths. Let's find out together.

Myth 1: Boys usually take longer than girls to develop speech.

Fact: It is true that boys tend to take longer in developing speech, but the difference is only by a few months. Boys and girls should develop their speech according to normal development milestones. Boys whose speech takes longer than usual to develop may need help.

Myth 2: Speech delay is usually caused by a lack of stimulation. Thus, if I spend more time with my child, he will be fine.

Fact: While it is true that an environment that lacks stimulation can be a contributing factor to speech delay, the cause is unknown in many cases. A child can live in an environment that stimulates speech, yet experience speech delay.

Myth 3: Kids who are late talkers usually catch up with their peers later on. 

Fact: Research indicates that approximately 40-50% of children who develop speech late (but have normal skills in other areas) do not necessarily catch up on their own. Furthermore, speech delay could be a sign of developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism. Children with developmental delay will need therapy and early intervention as they will not outgrow their disability.

Myth 4: My child is slow in speech because we talk to him in a number of languages, causing him to be confused.

Fact: There is no evidence that a bilingual or multilingual environment causes speech delay. What is true is that children who learn more than one language have a smaller vocabulary size in each language compared to a monolingual child. Interestingly, the total vocabulary size of the multilingual child is similar to that of the monolingual child.


If you suspect that your child's speech is developing too slowly, you should consult a paediatrician or speech-language pathologist (SLP). An SLP is a healthcare professional who specialises in assessing and treating speech-language delay or disorders. Children whose speech is delayed more than usual may need further assessment by a developmental paediatrician, child psychologist or child psychiatrist. A hearing test by an audiologist might be necessary if hearing is a concern.

Although children with speech delay may need therapy, it is important for parents play a role in the therapy process. This is because communication takes places mostly during every day routines, and not so much at the speech therapy clinic.


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