Dear Savvy Auntie,

My niece has a 28-month-old daughter - my great-niece. I have been noticing for awhile that my great-niece is not talking much at all. She uses only one word to communicate and doesn't have that many words to begin with. I've never heard her say even two-word sentences. She is definitely behind the range of where she should be at.

The TV is constantly on at their place which I know that isn't helpful for toddler speech development. I am the only aunt and can’t say anything about this to my niece or her mom (my sister).

How do I deal with this when it is something so important? The longer this goes on, the more help my great-niece will need down the road with speech therapy.  

No Words

Dear No Words,

I sympathize with your helpless feeling. You are in good company in Savvy Auntie community.

Minimal language at this age is still within the norm. If she goes to a pre- nursery or accredited day program,  the professionals will notice and hopefully will suggest she be tested and put in touch with a speech therapist.

Meanwhile, you can be helpful when you visit by asking your grand-niece questions. Here are a few ways to do this.

Ask her: "Who loves you?” and then say your name or mamma or daddy.

Ask her: "What is that in your hand?" If she doesn't say the word (E.G.: apple; cookie; ball) you say it.

When you read a book to her, pause at a word she can easily see represented by the image on the page and ask her what it is. If your great-niece doesn’t answer, say the answer and ask her to say it, too.

Ask questions that relate to her actions, like: "What are you eating?" or "Where is the dolly?" Always supply the word in your question, wait, then repeat the word.

Sing simple nursery songs to her and then, once she is familiar with it, pause the song so she can insert the next word. Encourage your great-niece to fill in a missing word again when you repeat the song.

Finally, praise your great-niece anytime she attempts to say a word.

I hope this is helpful!

Good luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield ,

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