They Say: One in Six Babies Has Trouble Talking


three-year-oldsAccording to a new study from the United Kingdom, one quarter of boys have trouble learning to talk, and one in six babies of both sexes do.

A YouGov online survey of 1,015 parents found that 34 percent of girls versus only 27 percent of boys had said their first word before the age of nine months, and most children said their first word between the ages of 10 and 11 months. Only 4 percent of children had not said their first word by the age of three.

Of those children who lagged behind, only half got expert help, according to the study.

That’s a serious problem, says Jean Gross, England’s first “Communication Champion” at whose behest the survey was done. “Our ability to communicate is fundamental and underpins everything else. Learning to talk is one of the most important skills a child can master in the 21st Century,” she told the BBC.

A majority of parents did things to help their children learn language, including reading them picture books, singing to them and telling them stories, although children from higher-income families reported their children actually enjoying it at a younger age.

I always find things about children’s speech development interesting because we had such wildly different experiences with the kids who live here. The girl, who was conscientiously read to daily since her newborn days, sung to, and constantly chattered at was a late talker, not saying much at all until she was well over two. She’d sign like a champ and said words, just not many. We actually had her set up for a speech evaluation when she was about two and a half, until one day at bedtime she just…started talking. In sentences and paragraphs and everything. And has not ceased since.

Meanwhile, her brother, who got a lot less focused attention although probably heard a lot more speech (see incessantly chatty sister reference above) began saying words at 19 months or so and now, at just shy of two, has a ton of words and effectively communicates his needs verbally.

While this study was done in the UK, I can’t imagine US numbers are all that different. Have you noticed a difference in your children’s speech development, and do you have any insight into why?