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What should a 23 month old understand?

(31 Posts)
jenduck Wed 13-Mar-13 17:50:47

I'm just wondering what my DS should be able to understand. He is just 23 months old. He can understand instructions such as sit down, eat up etc. He can also understand more complex instructions, without visual cues eg if we are sitting & I say let's go upstairs, he'll head over to the stairs or if I say shall we change your nappy or have you got a dirty nappy, he'll stop what he's doing & fetch a nappy & wipes. If I say can you get your shoes & bring them to Mummy he will do that.

However, he cannot point out any named objects in books etc. So if we are looking at a book & I ask where the train is, he will just have no idea & carry on lifting flaps/turning pages. But he would fetch a toy train if asked, so I think he knows the word. He can point to his own ears, and to my eyes, nose & mouth but not his own.

He does not really understand any questions & will not shake his head no or nod yes, unless to imitate. It surprised me today to see a 17-month old nodding when asked if his brother goes to school, did Peppa have a zebra friend etc.

He can say about 10 words or approximations of words, knows about 2/3 animal sounds & waves goodbye/goodnight. If you say good boy/well done/clever boy he will also clap.

I think that by this age DS1 knew colours, numbers & all sorts of other stuff and was having conversations, so DS2 seems very behind in comparison!

Other than this, DS2 is a happy little boy, prone to the odd toddler tantrum if you take something he wants away, loves playing with cars, trains, building, drawing & whatever his brother is playing with! He does 'squeak' quite a lot & kind of grunt, but I'm thinking this is related to him not having many words.

I am looking forward to his 2-year check next month & will ask about referring him for a hearing test, to check nothing is wrong in that area.

nextphase Wed 13-Mar-13 21:08:45

Sounds like your DS's understanding is fine, but his speech is slightly behind average (which, lets face it, half of kids have to be behind average!).
How clear are the pictures your asking him to pick out?? ie are you asking him to find the train or find a train?

DS2 is 22 months.
Not sure what he could point out in a book without big brother getting there first, but he can (in 2 languages):
point to his (or mine or teddies) eyes, ears, knees, toes etc
will nod/shake head as yes/no (been doing this for a long time)
Can fetch requested items, and switch lights on off at request
questions are hit and miss (unless its are you hungry, at which point we get a big nod and "esss"

DS1 at this age had about 3 words. The HV wasn't bothered as he had the understanding, and was attempting the odd thing. Shortly after his 2nd birthday, his vocab just exploded, and he was probably ahead of his peers for most of ages 2/3. Now they all seem back on a level again.

Someone said the best hearing test was to go into the kitchen and open the biscuit tin. if child comes running their hearing is fine!

Hope you get some official reassurance soon

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 13-Mar-13 21:17:04

If the hearing test is fine maybe get a sight test too?

If its any reassurance my dd hardly spoke till she was just 3, then sentences started pouring out of her.

If you think he's a little frustrated, do you think teaching him some signs might help?

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 12:35:03

Thank you both for answering.

Next asking him to find a train would be like your example in the second picture. He just doesn't know. Although, when he sees a picture of a lion he will roar hmm

It's reassuring to hear about your DS1, I'm hoping this will happen with DS2. He had now words up to about a month ago, then all of a sudden he got 10 or so all together. When I say words, they are not grown-up words, more sounds like 'huh' for hot/stop, 'ii-a' for highchair, 'ah-hah' for water, 'ha' for car etc. I do know his speech is behind average, but I think this in itself is not terrible if the understanding is there.

We went to library story & rhyme time today & DS is starting to join in with actions for the songs - even somebody I met going there commented on it. He is not keen on the stories & won't sit through a whole one, but he will if on my lap - so I wonder if he can't hear too well.

Jilted that's a good idea about the sight test too. I don't know if signing would work, but it could be worth a try. It is reassuring to hear about your DD, too.

The main thing with all of this is that I started googling, which is always a bad idea & the question of autism comes up. DS2 doesn't point, which is bad, but he does follow my point if we're somewhere quiet. He is very social, loves cuddles & holds eye contact. He plays alongside other children & has no repetitive behaviours - he does spin from time to time but can be distracted from doing that very easily & it is only occasional.

I feel that he is a lot like a child described here. He was slower than most to do everything (crawling 12 months, walking 17.5 months, self-feeding 17 months), so I wonder if it is just in his nature to be slower to do things? He has also always been an incredibly laid-back, contented baby, crying when he needed food/nappy change/was tired, but happy just watching big brother. I apparently also didn't walk or talk until around the 2-year mark.

Sorry for rambling, this is all just whizzing around in my head blush

JiltedJohnsJulie Thu 14-Mar-13 12:57:35

While I think you are right to talk this through with your HV, I think you are also right to think it may just be in his nature.

We have some in our family who develop late. My cousin was very much like your DS at that age, he's run his own business and just retired early with 2 houses, one here and one in France. So he's worked out alright.

My DSister and Dh both didn't walk until they were past 2and I can clearly remember my DSister having speech delay and taking longer to learn to read than most of her peers. Both now have degrees and fairly decent jobs.

Like I said before, our dd didnt start talking properly until she turned 3. She started school at just 4 and it was a struggle to get her to learn her letters. She's in year one now, can read really well and is in the top group for everything, which is amazing considering she's an August baby.

It's worth baring all this in mind, although I know it won't stop you worrying.

equiliteral Thu 14-Mar-13 13:47:11

My DS2 is almost 23 months, and his understanding sounds quite similar. He does now, generally, point out things in books (and if he doesn't know what I'm asking him to point to, he just randomly points at anything), but only in the last month or so. He has lots of single words, and can sometimes make 2 or 3 word sentences (eg "Mummy come back"), but this is recent too. His speech was late- no words at all until 18 months, was referred by HV for a hearing test (it was fine), then probably only about 20 single words until around 6 weeks ago.

He is miles and miles behind where DS1 was at this age (like your DS1 he could hold a conservation, knew colours, could count... I'm not even sure that DS2 understands that there are colours, or even a concept of counting) but I'm not worried at all - overall his communication is good (if you include non-verbal communication / gestures), and he is very engaged. His play is quite complicated too, lots of pretend scenarios, and he'll sit and work out a puzzle. He is far more physically advanced than his brother was at this age.. I think my point is that by all means speak to your HV (I did about DS2, and got a referral), but also look at the wider picture.

chocjunkie Thu 14-Mar-13 15:07:52

just to clarify - would he not be able to respond to a question like "do you want an apple?" with yes/no (or nodding/shaking his head)?

tbh, from what you describe it sounds to me as if his understanding of language is a bit behind (i have a severely speech delayed child and a couple if things such as the yes/no thing ring a bell). and it seems you are worried. just listen to your gut. if he was m DS i would want him assessed by a Salt. in most areas you xan self refer.
and talk to Gp or Hv to get a hearing test sorted to rule out any hearing issues.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Thu 14-Mar-13 15:19:47

I think you are right to get his hearing tested. Not being able to respond to yes/ no questions in any way (including non verbally with head shaking or nodding) does sound a little bit of a concern.

I ask my 22 month old DC3 questions like "Do you want to stay in the garden or come inside?" and he will tell me, but this is possibly ahead of average. The 17 month old may nod in answer to everything don't forget wink An old lady was speaking in dialect to my DC3 this morning, and if he understood her I'd be very surprised, as I certainly didn't smile but he clearly recognised from her intonation when she was asking a question, and smiled and nodded each time! I think that's a social as well as a language skill, so I would perhaps specifically raise that with a HV, and also with anyone considering testing his hearing, as maybe he isn't hearing the rising intonation indicating a question?

chocjunkie Thu 14-Mar-13 15:21:54

just read that your ds does not point either. how does he communicate with you (e.g telling you he wants a drink)?.

does he ever bring you things to show them to you?

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 15:46:17

choc he wouldn't really be able to respond verbally to that question, but he might reach out for the apple if he wanted it & push it away if he didn't. I guess, in a way, I don't ask these questions much, just present him with a snack & he'll eat it or not. If he wants a drink he will go to the kitchen & make his sound for water ('ah ha'). And he is always bringing me things - both to open/ do or just to admire!

Bumpsadaisie Thu 14-Mar-13 16:09:50

For comparison, my DS is 16.5 mths and would nod or shake his head to simple questions e.g. do you want a drink, have you done a poo, do you want a biscuit, shall we watch Iggle Piggle?

I think he does understand the question (rather than merely nodding because I am using "question intonation") as he will point to his cup or the snack box or waggle his hand in front of his nose (for a poo).

He wouldn't know what you were talking about if you asked him if his sister went to pre-school though - much too abstract.

chocjunkie Thu 14-Mar-13 16:15:04

its great that he wants to share but i would want him seen by a salt asap and get the hearing checked.

if you are worried about autism (and the lack of understanding, the lack in communicating, no pointing would concern me) then the Mchat is a good screening tool. you can do it online

DIYandEatCake Thu 14-Mar-13 16:25:15

My dd is 23m and has only very recently started using yes and no, or nodding/shaking head, and even then only after a reminder sometimes ('say yes if you want it, say no if you don't'!). Before that, repeating what I said meant yes and an indignant grunt/pushing it away was no. She used words like purple, udder, digger, upside down, before no, I thought it was because she didn't hear us saying yes and no much.

She does like pointing to things in books, and has a lot of words though many are made-up ones or hard to understand approximations. If he's not a big fan of books, you could try asking him to pick up flash cards, as it's a bit more physical. There seems to be a big range of normal, I sometimes worry about dd's strange speech but I am noticing it improving.

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 16:31:56

I have just done the Mchat test & the only thing he fails on is pointing, with further questions on understanding which he 'passed' as it said eg will he bring a book when asked, which he will, or follow an instruction in context, which he will. As I said before, he doesn't have any repetitive behaviours etc. He does communicate a little as he has a few words & can make clear what he wants or what he is interested in, but I personally think he doesn't have as much communication as he should.

I have spoken to a HV about this when he was just short of 18m & not talking, pointing or waving, but she was happy to leave him until he was 2 as he was clapping & happy around her, didn't seem vacant etc. Then when he was about 21.5m I spoke to a Nursery Nurse who said the same thing, to see how he goes at his 2-year check, but that there is a group we can go to each week which is for speech-delayed children (which there is no doubt in my mind that he is). She was encouraged when I rang her a few weeks later to report he had a few words & said to just encourage their proper pronunciation by repeating them.

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 16:33:27

DIY your DD sounds really similar to my DS, perhaps a month or so ahead, so that is reassuring!

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 17:39:28

Forgot to say, the MChat said low risk for autism & no current cause for concern

chocjunkie Thu 14-Mar-13 17:40:37

it is only a screening tool though ;-)

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 17:59:33

Yes, but along with the opinions of 2 health professionals & various friends & family, one of whom has a DS with severe autism, it's all I have to go on wink

Like I said, it is only consulting Dr. Google that has got me worried about this aspect of things. Apart from not pointing, he is friendly & engaged & communicates somewhat & does not have any repetitive behaviours. Otherwise, I feel the lack of speech & understanding could well be due to hearing issues, but I will obviously find this out when he is tested. I really just wanted to see, with this thread, where his understanding was at compared with others his age

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Thu 14-Mar-13 18:27:19

jenduck I think you are right to look into hearing first. Also I think some children don't talk much if they don't need to - try giving him more choices and insisting he asks for things rather than anticipating his needs ahead of time (within sensible bounds of course smile ). I remember staying with a friend when our eldest kids were both about 18 months, and I got up with the toddlers and got their breakfast, and looked up and saw her gaping at me from the door like I was a loon - it turned out because I had asked her toddler what he wanted for breakfast, it didn't occur to me not to because I have verbal diarrhoea and it didn't occur to her as something anyone would ever do, she always just chose for him, and I always asked my daughter. Her son did chose (by pointing) when offered the chance. At that point her son barely spoke, nothing anyone outside his family understood at all, where my daughter was speaking in 3-4 word sentences. It must have been mainly nature but I think nurture, and the fact I talked non stop to my daughter, including giving her choices and expecting her to reply, was also part of it.

On the other hand by the time both children were 4 there was no difference whatsoever in their language skills and you couldn't tell which had been the early and which the late talker - so it seems pretty likely that only affects how early children talk, not really how well they talk in the long run grin

jenduck Thu 14-Mar-13 18:41:44

Ah yes thanks MrT's (no idea what to abbreviate your name to!) The HV did say that I might not be giving DS enough opportunity to talk - so, in your breakfast example, he just always has weetabix, so I ought to try showing & asking him toast & weetabix & asking which one he wants. Also, his big brother (4.2) gets quite jealous if I try to ask DS2 anything or encourage him to talk - so trying to get DS2 to point at pictures in book earlier & along comes DS1 & does it for him! Or he will say 'Oh, I think DS2 wants a drink' etc.

I am only alone with DS2 for 3 hours, 4 times per week & then I often nip into town to do banking etc as it's easier than doing it with 2 kids in tow, so perhaps I should stop doing that & up interactive activities with him.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Fri 15-Mar-13 15:57:52

Jen I am only technically alone with my Ds2 for 3-4 hours at a time too (where we live school finishes at 11.20am) and do the same as you regarding errands, for the same reasons. You can talk to him the whole time you are out too wink and the 1:1 over a book or something need only take up 5-10 mins, they have short little attention spans anyway smile

My older kids are that little tiny bit older though (5 and 7) and we seem to have avoided the jealousy luckily - at least it is only the youngest who gets jealous - and the older 2 understand about needing to let DS2 talk so he can "get the hang of it" so they ask him lots of questions too wink They don't answer for him but they used to "translate" when his speech was less clear - they could understand him long before DH (who works quite long hours) could! Maybe you could make your 4 year old feel important as your younger DS's teacher and get him to be the one showing the books and asking DS2 questions? Bit of reverse psychology smile

Like I said though as long as his hearing is OK it is very likely to even out if its just down to having his needs anticipated now, it just might take longer.

jenduck Fri 15-Mar-13 19:40:08

Ah, the delightful German school system! hmm Actually, an excellent system, but not easy on parents in terms of arranging childcare!

You are right, but I do find it trickier to talk to him when we are in the car or he is in the pushchair - I feel better if I can look at him while I talk. Spent a good 20 minutes with him looking at books today & he was pointing at the pictures, after I did, so that was nice. We also played with his shape sorter, and he knew where to put most of the shapes.

I tried to get DS1 involved, by singing songs with DS1 suggesting what we sing & holding up the animals for Old McDonald etc. He does chatter to him but I think is desperate for a playmate so frustrated when he won't answer back.

I also noticed at dinner that when I asked him if he wanted some water, yes or no, he said his sound for water 'ah-ha' then clapped.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Sat 16-Mar-13 06:59:06

Sounds like progress then Jen smile Good that he's pointing too, sounds as if he's quite likely just a later starter maybe partly due to less need to talk than some children have.

Could you invite one of your 4 year old's friends over to play to give you more 1:1 with DS2, or doesn't he just disappear up to his room to play with friends yet?

I don't mind the early finish with the German school system really, gives them plenty of afternoon to play with their friends after a very formal and quite intense few hours at school; she comes home on the bus, so no school run, and has a key to let herself in and then phone me on my mobile (hands free in the car) if I'm ever stuck in traffic and get in 5 mins later than her (which occasionally happens getting home from toddlers group) and she's happy to do that - all the school kids do similar. What I mind is the huge amount of homework she often has and the fact the schools are very rigid, in expecting all children to be exactly the same, work at the same speed at all times etc. but that's all very off topic here!

jenduck Sat 16-Mar-13 16:52:55

Yes I thought the pointing was good, too. He wasn't pointing when I said 'Where's the train?' or anything, more that I was going through the book saying 'Train' & pointing to the picture then he pointed to it, too. It's a start, though!

We do sometimes have playdates for 4yo, but they're not really at the stage of going up to bedrooms on their own yet. And DS2 just wants to do whatever his big brother is doing, which is really cute but not always practical!

Am quite envy of you being in Germany. I think they are generally a lot more rigid over there, but it works well. I found everything so organised when I lived there!

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Sat 16-Mar-13 19:00:50


I love the Kindergarten system (and we seem by pure luck to have an especially good one as our default local village one) but now my eldest is in Year 2 I have some quite serious reservations about school to be honest. It is so radically different to the UK, so strict and so inflexible - it is not the place to be if you are anything other than quiet, motivated, industrious, and just slightly above average - not to startlingly unnervingly bright, but definitely no mild problems - there is no individualised learning what so ever, and that isn't a failing of DD's teacher, who is pretty good and fair, it is a deeply entrenched and unquestioned aspect of the system - if a child does the work fast they can read or draw until the next task is set, if they are struggling or simply work more slowly they just end up taking huge amounts of work home so as to be at the same point as the rest of the class by the next day... My DD will only be 9 when they categorise the children by ability and send them off to the 3 different tiers of secondary school too, which also worries me - some of her class mates are up to 18 months older than her (we're doing all we can to keep our middle one back a year, as like DD he would be the very youngest in his class if he started in his default year, and this seems to have an even bigger negative impact on boys than girls - there are no summer born boys in DD's class, they have all been held back by parents to the year below, as have a few girls, meaning loads of the class below DD are older than her!)

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