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2 yo niece not talking or communicating

Hello everyone,

I have some concern about my 2 year old niece.
Technically she’s 2 years and 7 months old. Currently she doesn’t speak, doesn’t even say mama or dada. She does babble but it appears to only be to herself. When she does say a word like “yay” it appears to almost be by accident. She seems to have no connection or association to words, as when you repeat them she shows no interest or acknowledgement.
She also doesn’t interact with anyone. It’s only when she wants something directly like a drink or help opening a toy box for example, that shell take your hand and give you the object she wants. She won’t even react to her name.

There is also no eye/facial contact. My niece also just interacts with toys by throwing them or trying to pull them apart, it’s not in a violent way. Most of the time it appears as if she’s curious, however she doesn’t display any role play or doesn’t copy the actions of others.

Overall she’s walks well, picks things up with no problem and has perfect eye-hand coordination.

My sister had a health visitor come to see her but she wasn’t able to give many answers. She has been referred to speech therapy now. But we were warned that things like proper discipline or potty training are useless until my niece can speak and understand words.
She’s also still drinking from a baby bottle and will only really eat soft food. But as we were warned it will be very hard to change these things as we can’t explain things to her.

I am kinda worried as we see many other kids her age and younger that surpass her but we are getting little answers or even reassurance.

Is there cause to be concerned?
1 Responses
973741 tn?1342342773
Ahh, sorry you have this worry for your niece.  I would take evaluations further.  I would have her evaluated by a developmental pediatrician or an occupational therapist.  This could be speech related but speech also plays into other neurological issues.  There are three parts of speech that all have to work.  First, there is receptive, that she has to take in what is said to her and organize it so she can understand it, comprehend.  The next part of speech is expressive speech. This is where she organizes her own thoughts in order to then have a response to express either through words or actions.  And third is articulation which is actually saying the words.  Motor skills of the mouth are involved but even more so, those connections in the brain through nerves.  My son has sensory integration disorder which is when his nervous system doesn't communicate properly.  Speech is often involved. He also had trouble chewing and avoided all things like meet or chewy items.  He gagged when he ate those.   Not knowing how to play with toys.  Not responding to commands.  And avoiding eye contact are all signs.  There is also autism which is different than sensory integration disorder although sometimes they can overlap.  We got help for my son early with an evaluation at age 3 by an occupational therapist.  He did occupational therapy for 6 years.  He really functions very well now.  But that early intervention was key.  So, I'm glad your niece is doing speech therapy but would also suggest further evaluation.

That she does hand you things when she needs help is great. That's a way of communicating and she is putting the pieces together to do that.  It's a good sign.  

No, do not discipline for things currently that may be due to the issue of understanding and communication.  I made this mistake with my son of being a little hard on him when he was doing the best that he could.  He's always suffered low self esteem and to this day, I hope that I did not contribute to that by my own lack of understanding early on of his struggles.  There is a phrase the first OT we saw told us and it's my mantra with kids that have challenges.  Accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.  This means to celebrate each positive she does and in a big way.  And to not focus just on her deficits. Compliment and enjoy her sweet smiles even if she doesn't want to make eye contact just yet.  (and OT"s teach strategies for such things she can employ later like looking at forehead instead if eyes are too much.)  

We're here to help so let me know what you think!
3 Comments
I agree with Specialmom.  I would also have her hearing checked!  There are several things you mentioned that make me wonder if she has a hearing problem.   And, yes, autism is also something that should be looked into.
Thank you soooo much for your detailed answer!! That has really given me a lot to think about and talk with my sister about.

My niece is hilarious and we all love her to bits! As with anyone you love you just want them to succeed to their best capabilities. I guess what’s giving our family the biggest worries is just the lack of answers currently. Thank goodness for our health visitor because without her persistence we wouldn’t even have gotten the appointment for the speech therapy.

Is there any recommendations perhaps for things we could try at home until a further professional help? How did you support and work with your son?
Something that you might want to try (if her hearing is ok) is Baby Signing Time.  It normally used for kids younger then your daughter.  But, it is a good way to communicate.  I have seen it used very successfully.  You can get a good feeling for what it is by checking out this link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-98njJwSl4
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