The Balancing Act: ‘My 2‑Year‑Old Doesn’t Speak At All’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to give advice to readers with questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Soft-Spoken Son: My 2-year-old son does not speak at all. He also doesn’t maintain eye contact. What would you suggest? (Although this sounds like autism to me, I think it would be unfair to mention it, let me know your views about it.)
Sonali: The time between 12 and 24 months is one of substantial linguistic growth; between 18 and 24 months, children can typically say anywhere from 50 to 100 words and understand almost 200 words as well as sentences with two instructions, such as, “Pick up the plate and keep it in the kitchen.”
Not maintaining eye contact is definitely a red flag at this age. Your first step would be to consult a pediatrician, who can assess your son’s hearing, vision and language skills. If further screening is necessary, the doctor should be able to recommend an expert team that consists of a speech therapist, pediatrician, psychologist and psychiatrist.
In the meantime, here are some things to take note of: Does your son make sounds and/or imitate sounds he hears from you and around him? Does he understand instructions? Does he make facial expressions in response to sights and sounds around him? Does he maintain eye contact with family members, but not strangers? Does he make eye contact when you call out to him or when he plays or eats? Did he begin by making eye contact in the first 3 to 6 months and has regressed since? (Infants generally develop a few seconds of eye contact at a time as early as 3 months.)
With such limited information, it would be unfair of me to give a conclusive diagnosis. However, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion of autism; there could be many reasons for your son’s development pattern.
Out of Love: I’m a 29-year-old woman, successful in my career — and not sure if I want to get married. Is this wrong of me?
Sonali: Societal expectations lead us to believe that marriage is a normal progression right after an adult has completed education or settled into a job — especially if you are a woman in India. There is a myth that marriage is a life goal that leads to happiness. While research indicates that happy individuals make for happy marriages, marriage does not necessarily lead to a couple’s happiness — in fact it’s the other way around.
Read more on happiness and marriage on The Swaddle.
In my professional experience, I have found evidence of this. Regardless of gender, the choice to be married needs to come from a space of personal choice rather than force, loneliness or fear of old age. (After all, people can be lonely even in relationships.) You must identify for yourself the reasons that motivate you toward marriage and away from it. For many people, the latter might relate to: prioritizing personal freedom, concern about commitment, past negative experiences in relationships, exposure to parents’ dysfunctional marriage, or even concerns about exclusivity. And many simply do not believe in the institution of marriage.
As an adult, you must trust yourself, even if it seems to go against more popular societal norms. Remember: Popularity and acceptance of an idea doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for all. Your ambiguity may be a reflection and a sign that you need to think through it more – taking time to do so is perfectly fine.