Help! My child doesn’t like to speak!

Child covering his mouth

Some children seem quiet and reluctant to talk. Some don’t naturally and easily use language to express their needs and wants, to comment on things, to get information or to entertain others. Other children may use language comfortably, but only in familiar situations. Being quiet in new situations is very common in children, particularly young ones. But you may be concerned that your child is too quiet, too much of the time.

There are many reasons that a child may be reluctant to speak. Two fairly common reasons are:

  • When placed in a new situation, your child may be worried about what to do, or be concerned about being away from home or from parents. For a child, deciding not to speak is one way to feel some control over an unfamiliar, somewhat scary situation.
  • Your child may feel pressured or embarrassed to speak, like the fear that many of us feel of talking in front of a crowd.

The important thing to remember is that your child isn’t trying to embarrass you by not cooperating, or “acting dumb.” She is just dealing with the situation as best as she can, so be patient and understanding. If the situation doesn’t improve, or gets worse – for example, you notice your child only talks to one parent, or not at all while at day care – it’s time to get some help. Consult your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.