Advice on 3 Y/o Behavior

Updated on April 20, 2008
D.G. asks from Farmington, NM
9 answers

i watch a little girl who turned 3 in december. i am having a hard time communicating with her because she seems to be very behind when it comes to speech and comprehension. she never talks in complete sentences and has a limited vocabulary, can't answer a question very well, and basically just repeats everything i say to her without seeming to understand it. if i ask her to do something that has more than one step in it she gets very confused and can't complete any part of the task. this does not seem like normal behavior for a 3 y/o, but i'm not an expert. has anyone ever dealt with this? are there any excercises i can do with her to improve these areas? also her mother died in early december and she now lives with her grandmother, who is mostly just trying to figure out what she is doing now, so she doesn't seem to be aware that the little girl's behavior might be behind. i don't know if i should say something, like recommend some kind of speech therapy, or if i should just wait and see if she improves. if anyone has experienced this before i would really appreciate suggestions.

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with Cathy. It sounds like she has a lot to deal with right now. She is going through a really difficult time. Remember that her grandmother raised children of her own so she is probably aware of child development. I say give her some time and love on her a lot. She just needs to be loved.

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answers from Casper on

My son is behind on speech/language and goes to preschool for it. They try to have him look at their face when talking and encourage him to talk to ask for things (he often points and grabs fingers to 'lead' people). For you sanity, you may want to encourage her more physically - grab her shoulders and steer, grab her hand and point at things with it so she learns to do it, and work on learning small commands like "put this in the garbage", perhaps demonstrating it a few times first.

One thing we have done at home that really helps is the Letter Factory dvd by Leap Frog. It's a cute show where they actually teach the letters to talk (ie, a monster scares all the A's so they say AAA!) At first my son wasn't interested in making the sounds, but he liked watching it and now he is practicing his letters as well as pointing at letters on my shirt and saying the corresponding sound. There is a Talking Words Factory DVD that is on it's way also, where the letters are combined together to make words.

I think preschool has helped, and being around lots of other children is a big encouragement since he is our first child. There's something about seeing your peers talking tha makes you want to too, right?

The shock of having her mom gone could be a factor, in fact I know of a man who watched his mother die at a very young age and immediately developed a rather severe speech impediment.

Best of luck.



answers from Denver on

She is dealing with the trama of losing her mom and it will take a little time maybe a few years for her to get back on track. I would suggest reading to her and talk to her as much as possable about the stories you read to her. Grandma is still dealing with losing her daughter and is out of it also. Just love the little girl as much as you can she is hurting and needs a mothers touch.

I had a good friend that lost a daughter at 18 months and their 3 year old son took it really hard. They had him tested because they thought he had a problem. He lived in his own world for a while. He is now thriving and exceeding in school but it took time and love to get him to this point.

C. B



answers from Provo on

I'm no expert, but I have a three yo girl (turned 3 in October) and the girl you describe is very behind her. There are things that you can do in your home to encourage her. It seems as though she has been through a lot lately - mother dying - that can cause issues with learning. You could try improving her vocabulary by showing her pictures and naming them. From my experience, kinds are hungry for learning, so they are typically into learning games. You could do flash-card games with her. There is a product that I was just referred to that I think would be great to help with this. The website is The product is called Pics for PECS 2008. They have like 1600 pictures with names that you can print out and use with her. She could color them and you can play matching games and whatnot with her. Perhaps they would help you communicate with her in a way she can understand - show her pictures of what you want her to do and give her the words for it, so she can link the action with the word.
It sounds like the grandmother is also dealing with a lot. I worry that if you mention this issue to her at this point, it may be too overwhelming for her. You know the situation better than I do though. Perhaps she would be open to it at this point - it sounds like the girl could use more help at home too.
Good luck to you. I hope that this gives you a few ideas.



answers from Boise on

Say something to the grandma....please. My son has a speech/language/comprehension disorder and you just decribed him a that age, if it is caught young it is very managable. My son still struggles (mainly in school) to this day but if we hadn't gotten the help when we did I can't imagine where he would be today.
Can you suggest it to the grandma and maybe offer to help her find services and go with her so that when the girl is with you you know some techiniques to help her? Most school districts offer evaluations and services for free if not check with your local health and welfare.



answers from Denver on

Hi D.,
It is wonderful that you are helping this family. It sounds like this little girl is having a difficult time. You should contact your local school district and ask about having her evaluted for delays. Child Find that was mentioned already is, I believe, a Denver program. But, your school district should be able to help give you information on who can help. I would get all the information for the Grandmother and then present it to her. I am sure she is also having a difficult time now. As a recent widow with 6 young children, I can say that at her age I wouldn't be suprised if she is holding a lot in right now. She might not want to communicate with her words. Is she getting any kind of grief therapy? They have art therapy for kids this age that is wonderful. Your local hospice, even if her mother wasn't in one, should be able to help with setting some sort of therapy up for her. Grandmother might want to go for counseling at the same time. This is usually free or by donation. If you want anymore information on art therapy you can e-mail me.



answers from Billings on

yes, she does sound behind...but I agree with the other moms--she may just be having trouble because of the trauma in her life. Do they have her seeing any kind of therapist? That might be a good first step. After a while, if she is still seeming behind, then you could approach the subject with her grandma.



answers from Denver on

We just had an evaluation done and the info we were given said 450 words by either 2 1/2 or 3. It does sound like this young one isn't there. If you can find a nice way, the grandmother might be grateful for the help. You might even be able to start the ball rolling. With Child Find, everything is covered and she will be evaluated within 45 days of the initial phone call. Therapy will start within 30 days of that. We've been very satisfied with the care we were given there. Children's Hospital is another possibility. I found the numbers for Child Find by googling them and then whoever I talked to was very kind and helpful and gave me the phone number I really needed.



answers from Denver on

Yes, you should say something. But I agree it could be just trauma from losing her mother. That is a lot at her age. Some kids will regress, Talk with the grandma, with diplomacy of course. You are with her all day and the parents need to know if there is a problem. They may be ignoring it or not acknowledging it. It sounds like she definitely has some delays and if they are worked on now she will do a lot better.
You having two children of your own you know what to look for too. I would just delicately ask the grandma if she has ever had her granddaughter evaluated for speech therapy? Just very matter of fact, if she asks why, just explain that it seems sometimes that she isn't understanding what you are asking of her and you cannot understand her.
I had to do this with a five year old I watched the first of the school year. I could not understand ONE word he said!! I am serious. His parents had no idea about all the state programs out there to assist him and classes he could take to help him, they were just hoping he would outgrow it!!!
If the parents get defensive, then just explain it is because you are with their granddaugther a few things just were a cause of concern for you and you were just wondering, not to offend them.

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