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Old 05-28-2007, 12:51 PM   #1
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Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

I don't have kids and my niece is the first small child I've spent a lot of time around, but I know that she is not developing her language and speech skills at a normal rate. I believe by this age (she will turn four in five months), I should be able to carry on short conversations with her, most of her language should consist of real words, and she should be able to form short sentences to express her whatever ideas she may have at this age.

But her vocalizations still consist primarily of "baby talk". She does say some words but sentences are rare. She can recognize and has words for many things, but honestly she's done that since she turned two, and there hasn't been a great deal of progress since then, other than she can recognize more things and has words for them. Mostly it's just single words and baby talk.

I wonder if my sister and brother in law do enough to teach her. Unfortunatley it's difficult to bring up with them because they are both hyper-sensitive when it comes to anything that could be interpreted as criticism. They won't listen to anything if they feel it's critical of them. When I am around them while they are with her, I don't see them doing much to teach her to talk.

When I am around her especially of late, I'm trying to teach her. I ask her how old she is and tell her how she should respond, but she clearly doesn't understand and she mostly ignores me. If I do ask her something she understands she will respond.

But again, I'm not around many children and I don't really know how unusual it is for a child her age to be slow at developing language ans speech skills. I do know that it seems most kids her age, even younger, I do encounter seem considerably more advanced, and I know kids develop these skills at different rates.

How concerned should I be? Could it be a case of her parents not doing enough to teach her (she's the first child in her generation in our family, so she gets babied and doted on a lot)? Could this be a sign of a bigger problem in terms of her mental health and development. ?

 
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Old 05-28-2007, 03:31 PM   #2
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

I know that it is hard to do this, but you need to stay out of it. I don't mean to be rude, but it is true. If they were open and receptive to your opinion, they would take it, but since they are sensitive to these things, the best thing to do it what you are doing. Just try to teach her things when you are around her. It sounds like she is okay. My 3 year old still baby talks some times. You can carry on a short conversation with her...and your niece sounds slightly behind, but not severly. At her 3 year doc visit, the doc asks questions about development. I am sure if they saw something amiss, they would have suggested speech therapy. When she goes to school, if this is really problem, the teacher will suggest such therapy as well. This will in no way hinder her future development. Many children talk late and turn out just fine. Her parents probably talk alot for her, this happens a lot in first born children. Once she gets around other children (and you could suggest a play group for her) she will change quickly in her speech as well. Other children are an amazing way for kids to learn. Plus she will gain socialization skills. Good luck. I know it is hard to stay out of these things...but to stay "well" in the family...I would suggest not to say anything. Good luck and I hope she gets where she needs to soon.

 
Old 05-28-2007, 08:52 PM   #3
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

Well, I have been staying out of it, and I didn't mean to suggest I wanted to intervene. I'm just concerned and I'm wanted to know if I had good reason to be. One thing I did forget to ask that I wanted to was if there were some kind of language development tools... maybe a DVD, software, audio tapes, etc. that might help, which I could just give to them. She was going to school for some time while my parents were out of the country, so she was around other children her age for sometime. But now that they are back my mother has been watching her while my sister works. Thanks for the response.

 
Old 05-28-2007, 11:25 PM   #4
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

hi and yes i agree you need to stay out of it but at what point do you say enough is enough?i am an edu-care teacher and am always shocked at how small minded most parents can be.As u say..any suggestion that they need to have their kiddie evaluated..for whatever the reason,is mostly taken very badly.A dr cannot always pick up a problem if the parents are not being open and truthful.your niece could also have an auditory perception problem..a child that hears all said but cannot follow out the instuction.Or hears a word but cannot repeat it correctly.( pls note this is not meaning she is deaf)Speach therapy would do her a world of good.Hope you get sorted..I am happy not to have to be in your possition.I will use this phrase very lightly..you do not get problem children only problem parents.

 
Old 05-29-2007, 09:49 AM   #5
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

Speech is something that should come natural. It doesn't matter if they are the first child or the tenth. Developmentally, a child should start putting two words together at the age of 2.
Because it is a sore subject with the parents, could you encourage the parents into sending her to preschool???? Maybe say........a break for you, some other child socialization for their daughter. I think they would definately pick up the delay there and put some pressure on the parents.
If they are not interested in preschool, I don't think she will get the helps she needs until kindergarten. But it is there in kindergarten that she will definately be evaluated and receive services if the situation is still the same.
You are in a difficult situation. In the mean time do what you are doing for her. She is lucky to have you in her life. Good luck. I wish you the best.

 
Old 06-01-2007, 04:59 PM   #6
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

Thanks for the responses and the kind comments.

 
Old 06-07-2007, 11:46 AM   #7
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Re: Concerned about my 3 1/2 yr old niece's language development

It is soooo hard to just stay out of it. I don't have kids of my own but I have four nephews and one niece and I care for them deeply! When my first nephew was born, I knew right away something was not right. He would not make eye contact, smile, etc. He had trouble sitting up, delayed motor skills, all sorts of things. They left him in the care of my parents, retired and 70+ at the time, and they couldn't pick him up and lacked energy to care for him. On top of this his mom, my sister in law, was a special ed teacher and did not admit there was something wrong with him until he was three or four years old!! My sisters and I all knew it from day one, talked amongst ourselves, but never said anything fearing it would cause a fight within the family. My brother was a first time parent at this point and under the influence of his wife, so I don't blame him for not knowing. So now he is 7 years old is in regular public school but taking special classes, his motor skills are delayed, his writing and reading are about a year behind, etc. I just wonder if we would have spoken up and got him special help sooner would he be better today? I mean most of us would not stay out of it if a child were being physically abused and I think looking away and ignoring this type of situation is almost as bad.

 
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