Monday, April 24, 2017

Why Doesn't My Kid Talk?

© Sindlera |
After preschool one day last week, Oliver and I walked behind one of his classmates and her dad for a little ways before they reached their car. As the little girl started to get into the back seat, she turned to us and said "Bye, Oliver!"

I turned to Oliver and said, "Can you wave bye-bye?" He did.

Then the little girl asked me a question I had never been asked before:

"Why doesn't Oliver talk?"

This was a perfectly innocent question coming from a 4-year-old

It caught me off-guard, though, and I didn't know what to say, so I just shrugged and said, "Yeah, he just says 'yeah' and 'go' a lot, doesn't he?"

That didn't really answer her question, and afterwards I pondered how best to answer it in terms that she might understand. Here's what I came up with:

"He has a boo boo on his brain. This makes it hard for him to move his mouth. It's kind of like when you have a boo boo on your knee and it's hard for you to move your leg."

"Everyone is good at different things. You're good at talking. Oliver is good at making people laugh."

"He's working hard to learn how to talk. He just needs some extra time to learn. People learn at different speeds." 

Another option would be to say "He has cerebral palsy" and then let the kid's parents educate themselves on the condition and offer further explanation to their kid as needed.


I hope the little girl's dad wasn't too embarrassed by her question. It was a good question, sparked by observation and curiosityboth good qualities to nurture in a childand it deserves an answer. What kind of world would this be if questions about differences were always shut down with a response like 'We don't ask that kind of question'? It would, of course, be a world with less understanding of differences, and thus less acceptance.

Let's all do our part to make the world a more accepting place by answering our kids' (sometimes tough) questions about differences. By doing so, we encourage their development of empathy, and the world could certainly use more of that.


  1. Hi there - I'm visiting from the Love That Max link up. Love the simplicity of this girl's question. It makes me think that adults should take a hint from her, and instead of staring or avoiding someone with language delays, simply ask. For my child with autism, I usually say that he doesn't talk much, but he communicates in other ways.

    1. I like that response! I might have to use it sometime for my own son. :-) Thanks for visiting my blog and for taking the time to comment!

  2. Ohh I can relate to this! As a person with CP, it's still hard for me to open up to people when they ask me why I walk differently. My speech isn't affected, but to little kids I try to say something like, "My brain got hurt when I was a baby, so sometimes it gives mixed up instructions to my legs!" I really like the response you thought of, though -- and Melissa's too!

    And I like your actual reply to the little girl, too! I wrote a post about something similar on my blog a few months ago, except when a guy asked me about my condition, I COMPLETELY froze up and said something like, "I have CP." Doubt he knew what CP was, but he feigned understanding and we moved on...I just couldn't get myself to say the words "cerebral palsy."

    I love when people are comfortable enough to voice their curiosities (politely) but even now, it still catches me off-guard sometimes. Hugs!

    1. Thanks, K! I like your response to little kids, too!

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for taking the time to comment! It's really nice to hear the perspective of someone with CP. :-)