By the time a child is two they usually have a vocabulary of between about fifty and several hundred words. Some of these words need to be verbs, action words such as “go” or “want”. A Speech Pathologist will consider a child to have delayed speech development if they have less than fifty words in their vocabulary. Children usually need to be able to say at least fifty words to be able to start putting two words together (eg “go car”).
Children with dyspraxia will find it harder than other children to learn to say the basic sounds to start making words, so they are often later starting to attempt talking. When they do they will have a higher than usual level of difficulty in making the words intelligible. Often their parents will know what they are talking about with these early words, as it is usually clear by the context, but it would be difficult for other people to understand them.
Please be aware that ALL children have inaccuracies in their speech in the early years, particularly as there are some sounds that take longer to learn, such as putting two consonants together (like st in stop, which will usually sound like ‘dop’), or ‘r’ or ‘th’ sounds. If you are concerned about whether your child is accurate enough, check out Ages and Stages.
Children this age usually enjoy making all sorts of funny noises, and have a wide range of animal and vehicle noises, as well as some that just appeal. Toddlers with dyspraxia will have a more limited range and they may not sound like the ones you would make. They will often resist attempts to make them try.
Toddlers with dyspraxia will have a great deal of difficulty putting sounds together to make words, and then putting syllables together to make longer words. Often they will use what sounds like a made-up word to represent favourite objects or foods, and it may sound quite different to the real word. It can even be hard to say the same syllable twice (like ‘mum-mum).
Toddlers with dyspraxia are often still drooling and may need to have their face wiped often or wear bibs. They can have poor control of their lips and closing their mouth or keeping their lips sealed.
This poor control can make it difficult for them to do other things with their mouth, such as sucking through a straw, or blowing bubbles. Sometimes they will be able to manage only certain types of straws or cups, and parents often have to experiment with different types of cups and bottles for water.
Transitioning to solid foods can be difficult for some. Very often children that have dyspraxia have a history of being ‘fussy’ eaters, especially not liking some textures or food. They may, for example, be happy to have puree food, even enjoying a good range of flavours, but resist having lumps in their food or coping with pieces of food. Sometimes children will learn to enjoy crunchy food such as toast or biscuits but resist textures that are part-way between smooth and crunchy.
If they have a strong gag reflex, then this is the time you will see it!
Biting and chewing can be difficult, and so they need there meat cut up small or minced. Toddlers may be reluctant to bit into an apple or carrot. However, a toddler can eat normally and still have dyspraxia related to speech.
Toddlers should be able to easily imitate actions you can do with your face and mouth, such as puckering your lips, wiggling your nose, raising your eyebrows, frowning, poking your tongue out and moving it from side to side. Toddlers with dyspraxia will still have difficulty imitating facial gesture, so simply showing them how to place their mouth to make sounds or words can be frustrating.