My three-year-old son hasn’t started speaking

Monday November 4 2019


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I have three-year-old baby who has delayed to speak. He can only speak a few words but they are not clear. Could it be a brain problem because sometimes when you insist on him speaking, he just cries or look down. He is healthy, can play,listen and understand except for that one issue. I need to know where i can take him for treatment. He is now in school but is the only one who can not sing when the other children are singing. Monicah

Dear Monicah
In Uganda, a baby’s first words of speech should be maama or mummy, taata or daddy.
As with other skills and milestones, the age at which kids learn language and start talking can vary. Many babies will say tata or “mama” well before their first birthday but a few others though they are growing well in terms of milestones may do this after one year.

A speech delay in an otherwise normally developing child might be due to an oral impairment, like problems with the tongue or palate (the roof of the mouth) with a short frenulum (akanyata) largely blamed in Uganda for limiting tongue movement for speech production.

Many children with speech delays have a problem in the areas of the brain responsible for speech, making it hard to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw to produce speech sounds. They might have other oral-motor problems, such as feeding difficulties.

Hearing problems are also commonly related to delayed speech with ear infections, especially chronic infections, largely being responsible for hearing problems.

Problems with speech and language some of the defining characteristics of the Autism Spectrum Disorders where children may have problems with communication, behaviour and social skills.
Brain damage due to infections like Rubella during pregnancy, or early childhood infections like meningitis or genetic problems are usually blamed for Autism.


Whereas a fraudulent research one-time blamed Autism on MMR vaccine, actually the vaccine may prevent Rubella (German measles) also blamed for Autism.

Whereas your child may have no problems but only delayed to speak just like there may be a family speech delay problem, with increasing numbers of autism in Uganda today, you need to visit a paediatrician to further evaluate your child.