child not talking at 4

Child Not Talking At 4: What to do?

Child not Talking at 4

I got an email with that subject. It was from a troubled mother who wanted to know when their boy should be speaking now that they were already 4 and showed no verbal expressive language. Could it be a physical problem or could it be a neuro-developmental problem, the parent wanted to know.

And so I came up with this article because one thing about a child not speaking is that they need to be physically examined by a pediatrician before they can make any conclusive judgement. It could be anything from autism spectrum disorder, late talker, hearing challenges or a cleft lip. Let us look at each in depth.

What could cause language and speech delay for a 4 year old child?

Language disorders and speech

Some children have a problem of understanding what other people say, they may be troubled to produce speech or may not be able to repeat what other people say. This is caused when the brain of a child is working differently. These are commonly the earliest causes of language and speech delays.

Hearing Problems

Child with hearing problems

Kids with trouble of hearing may have a problem in imitating, saying or understanding language. Ear infections such as chronic infections may cause a problem in hearing but as long as one of the ears has no infection, speech and language will improve normally.

Physical impairments

child with cleft lip

A cleft palate is one of the extreme cause of impairment that cause speech problems. Having an unusually short frenulum, the fold that holds the tongue to the lower mouth, is also another problem. Such cases are discovered by the pediatrician before the baby starts talking but at some points they may also be missed until you start visiting a dentist.


Either speech, language or communication problems are early signs of autism. Common symptoms of autism include lack of eye contact, trouble adapting to change in routine, not looking at things when another person points at them, etc.

Speech Apraxia 

It is a disorder in which a child has a problem in sequencing and executing speech movements. The common explanation of a child with childhood apraxia of speech is that they are hard to understand. The cause of this CAS is that there is something in the brain that doesn’t allow messages to get to the mouth to produce sound correctly. Symptoms of CAS include late development of the child’s first words, excessive movement of the mouth for sound production or errors of sound production in words.

Einstein Syndrome

We have found that some late talkers have what is called the einstein syndrome; named so after the famous Albert Einstein who spoke late. If a kid has hyperlexia, good eye contact, has social play and is talented in a particular field, then it could be the einstein syndrome and not autism.

We also looked at other late talkers who are famous and had lots of talent.

You can check out our einsten syndrome pdf book to learn more.

Auditory Processing Disorder

This indicates a problem with decoding sound speech .These types of kids can improve with speech and language therapy.

Access of speech and language

A child may be neglected or abused and does not hear others speaking. This may make the child have difficulties in learning how to speak.

Neurological problems

Neural problems like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury can disturb the muscles needed for talking.

Selective mutes

This is when a child talks when they feel like maybe due to anger or being nervous. Maybe they are taken to school and did not want to, they may spend the whole day without talking to anyone. Some children are also afraid of talking due to grammatical correction from their elders making them knock their confidence.

What to do when child can’t speak at 4 years

See the world through them

Despite the frustration you have, you may be in a rush and annoyed by the poor attempts that the toddler is making while trying to articulate words. You may feel like insisting that they stop pointing and grunting at things and just start to use the words you are using when they want something.

Child not talking at 4

Instead, think of the struggle they are going through when they want you to understand them. How hard it is for them to ask for just a simple help. It is really tough and agonizing.

The only solution to this is that you should be empathetic and tolerant which will be good for you, for them, for your bond and for their eventual language development.

Use everyday situations

Talk your way through the day to improve your child’s verbalization and language. Explain what you are doing as you clean the house, wash the dishes, as you cook a meal and name it and also point on objects as you name them. Keep things as simple as possible but avoid baby talks.

Focus on communication

Talk to your baby, sing and also cheer imitation of sounds, nods and signs. Read interesting and simple books to your child, those that contains cartoon pictures and make your child view them as you name the pictures.

Children playing a game that enhances speech

Seek a speech language therapist for help

Speech language therapists are educated in study of human communication, growth and disorders.

They use a variety of strategies including:

  • Intervention on language activities

They interact with the child by playing or talking using books, pictures or ongoing events to enhance language growth of a child. The therapist may also use repetition for growth of language skills.

  • Speech therapy
A speech therapy session

This activity involves the therapist making correct sounds and syllables in words or sentences for the child especially during playing times. The level of play is related to a child’s specific needs. The therapist shows the child how to make sounds and how to move their tongue to make specific sounds.

  Allowing Pretend plays with other children

 Pretend play improve preschoolers’ vocabulary and understanding. Kids learn this while they listen to each other as they play. They also learn how to reach agreements and to interchange words and actions. Pretend play increases a child’s performance in pre-reading, language and writing. You can check our post on pretend plays here

 Toys that encourage Talk

Invest in toys that encourage social interaction, turn talking such as playing ball games as well as those that have the kid moving.

Read on: When a child should say their name