By the time her daughter turned 3, Ramona Santos Torres noticed something not quite right about the child’s speech. The toddler babbled, but nothing she said was intelligible. She rarely made eye contact with other people. Most babies, Santos Torres knew, start to utter some recognizable words before they reach the age of 2. “We just couldn’t make out what she was saying,” Santos Torres recalled.

The mother, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, mentioned it to her daughter’s pediatrician, who quickly dismissed the concern, saying the speech delay was because the family spoke both Spanish and English at home. “It was so frustrating how little he listened to me,” Santos Torres said. (Studies have shown that early bilingualism can in fact confer social and cognitive benefits.)


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