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When do toddlers start to talk?

(66 Posts)
Eulalia Tue 17-Apr-01 12:36:30

I have a similar concern to Croppy. Our son is 21 months on Thursday and says very little. A few words consisting of Dada, Umma (mum!), nana (food) and sometimes he says teddy and that is about it. The thing is he used to say more. He said his first word just after his 1st birthday (button) and loved saying it then it just disappeared. He also later said hat but that has recently been dropped too. I wouldn't mind but he 'shouts' very loudly and has also just taken to doing a high pitched scream. I am sure this is just a way of communicating but I don't understand why he isn't trying to use words more. He seems to like the rhythm of nursery rhymes - he says "baa baa" for baa baa black sheep and he imitates the noise of household appliances.

According to the literature he should have 200 words by age 2! What should I do to encourage speech or should I just wait? How should I deal with the screaming? I am saying "I" here because it is generally me that is with him most of the time. Husband tends to want to do things like put him out of the room when he screams but I am not sure if this is the right thing to do. He does understand words and quite complex phrases if you ask him to do something so I guess this is a good sign.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Croppy Tue 17-Apr-01 13:01:10

Eulalia, our son (same age as yours) still says relatively little. His vocab has come along greatly in recent weeks though and he now knows probably around 50 words. He still just rarely speaks. He started to say "Daddy" properly a few weeks ago but can only manage "Ma" for me which he rarely uses. He never says anything like "more" even though he is clearly hungry.

I got a bit frightened off by the answer on this site from one of the childcare experts a few weeks back who recommended to another mother with a similar concern that she took her child to see a Speech Therapist. As our son is normal in all other respects, this seems a little alarmist. Still, some reassurance from parents of other late talkers would be welcome!.

Jac Tue 17-Apr-01 13:35:41

I think the trigger age for talking is around 2. Our eldest said quite a lot before but as soon as she was 2 she talked a lot more continuously. Now our youngest has reached 2 and the same thing is happening and she doesn't have half the words of the eldest at that age. It definately depends on the child, they are all different of course, so don't worry.

I have a follow up appointment for my 2 year old from when she had her 18 month review as she didn't say a thing then, so it's amazing what 6 months does. She's 25 months now and only says about 2 words together like sit down, up down, but loads of one words which she will say one after the other, coat, car, shoes etc. Although having said all that she says more words together when singing a nursery rhyme, which she learn't from a tape recorder in her bedroom at night, but recently we've not put it on at night as she cries when it goes off and won't go to sleep, but tape recorders are pretty good for encouraging speech.

I'm sure you may also find that their understanding is better than speech, ie, when you tell them to go and get their shoes.

Bugsy Tue 17-Apr-01 14:09:36

Eulalia, I'm no expert on this but if I were you I might be inclined to take my son to the doctor just to check that he hasn't got any hearing problems. I don't mean permanent or anything scary but just gummy ear etc. Often during the winter when kids get lots of colds and stuff their little tubes don't clear out properly. You mention that he is shouting and screaming which could mean that he can't hear his own voice properly.
Hope it all works out.

Eulalia Tue 17-Apr-01 19:39:39

Thanks for the advice. Yes Croppy I think that is a bit alarmist. As I said he does understand words so I guess its just a case of him feeling he doesn't need to talk just now. His other skills are very good and his manual dexterity is excellent so I guess it will come. thanks for the advice on tapes Jac I will try that one as our Toy Library provides tapes.

Bugsy - no he definately doesn't have ear problems. He turns readily towards a sound. He's never had any ear problems and a cold never gets past the sniffle stage. I think the loud noises are just attention seeking. He doesn't do it all the time.

Well I now feel more relieved that there are other late talkers out there.

Chelle Wed 18-Apr-01 00:44:54

Out little boy is 22.5 months and has also been slow to start talking. From 12 months he would say a new word very clearly once or twice and then we wouldn't hear it again. At 18 months he would have had no more that 10 words and a close friend, who is a speech pathologist, said she was concerned about him. As he could very obviously understand what we were saying and was commincating well by pointing etc, I thought I would wait a while longer before panicking. His gross and fine motor skills have always been very advanced, so I figured he was working this out before worrying about talking, we seemed to understand what he meant anyway!

Miraculously, at 21 months he started saying a new word or two every single day. About 2 weeks ago he finally started calling us Mummy and Daddy instead of Mummum and Daddad, this was a very exciting day!! And only a few days ago he was trying the say his little counsin's name Emily (Ememmy). Now he is even starting to put words together. I'm not sure whether he'll have the mandatory 200 words by age 2 but it won't concern me if he doesn't as I now know he'll definitely get there at his own pace!

Paula1 Wed 18-Apr-01 11:43:15

Friends of my parents had a little boy who didn't talk until quite late (around 3.5 from memory), he was bright and attentive, but just didn't talk. When he started talking, it was in sentences, not just one word, kind of as if he'd been waiting until he could 'do it properly' before bothering at all. He still is one of those children who will only sing the new song (or whatever) once only, if you missed it the first time - tough - he's on to the next thing.

Janh Wed 18-Apr-01 12:17:28

hi, croppy!
my younger son spoke in single words only until he was nearly 3, and as these words were car, bus, lorry, etc, in cycles, we all got very bored!

i can't remember now (honestly!) if he passed the baby hearing tests but when he was 2-ish he used to hate it when i stopped the buggy in shops, to talk to people, etc, and he used to yell. our HV decided this might be because he couldn't hear what was going on so we went through the whole hearing centre cycle for quite a while. (he did have some small hearing loss - high or low, can't remember which! - but it went eventually - he never had grommets or even any ear infections.)

i also can't remember now exactly when he started talking properly but it was between 33 - 39 months - in his first spring/summer term at playgroup anyway.

he is now just 8, going on 45! has a huge vocabulary and uses it all to our regular amusement. i HATE averages, medians, norms etc. there really is never a "should" with kids development - most do this, some do more, others do less, at this age, but it'll all even out in a month/year or two. it's particularly noticeable when they start school - some seem ready for SATs, some seem as if they should still be in reins, but by the time they get to 11 things not only even out, they often switch around.

certainly get his hearing checked but if it's ok and, as you say, he understands an awful lot and can obey instructions etc, then he will get there when he gets there.

Janh Wed 18-Apr-01 12:24:58

oh - croppy - i just read your later message about the speech therapist, which reminds me we were sent down that road too!

there were certain sounds he "should" have been able to make and didn't - eg "five fish fingers" was "bive bish bingers" and "playgroup" was "claybroup" - we all knew what he meant but had to go through the system anyway. well, maybe we didn't but it put the afternoons in! he actually enjoyed the therapy sessions but whether they made any immediate difference is a moot point.

eulalia - i hadn't registered your message either when i sent the first one so it's for you too!

Tigermoth Wed 18-Apr-01 13:13:37

Its been very interesting to read these messages. Eulalia, my 20-month son has exactly the same pattern of speech development that you describe for your son: Forgetting previously-learned words, in his case 'Oh dear' uttered around 14 months or so and now rarely heard, while also being a great sound imitator with very good manual dexterity. His shrill screems accompanied by much finger jabbing leave you in little doubt about his desires.

I'm so looking forward to him leaving the vocabulary starters gate. Croppy, glad to hear your son is making such progress.

My son says there, bear, mum, dada, good boy but not to order, and not that clearly either. But he instantly responds to soft music and loves drumming, so he can hear something!

I have already spoken to our health visitor to determine how long the current waiting list is for the speech therapist (3 months) and I will review things around this trigger age of two - and get his hearing checked.

I try not to compare my toddler with my older son - but I do. My older son talked very readly and extremely clearly from the age of 12 months. By the age of 2 years I had stopped counting the words he could say - it was well over 200. What's more, my early-talker son had mild but ongoing hearing problems for years,(diagnosed at nursery but probably present before this)and he just avoided having grommets fitted! Conversely, his manual dexterity was not that brilliant. To this day (he's nearly 7) he has never had any inclination to build a tower of bricks - one of those development landmarks he was meant to reach as a toddler.

As far as I know, I talk to my younger son in the same way as I did with my older son and I go through similar naming games that had positive effect the first time round. I definitely have the same sort of voice. Naturally my toddler is not getting my undivided attention, but because I am beginning to worry about his apparent disinterest in language, I'm trying all the more to get him to talk. For weeks I have been pointing my finger at every red bus we see and talking about them. He points with me and says his standby word 'there'. Same happens when we look at picture books. I can ask him where the dog is, and, if he's feeling like it, he points to the right picture but says 'there', not 'dog'. He also seems to like naming abstact things: when he's managed to get a particularly fiddly lid to fit a jar he'll utter 'good boy' to himself. Sorry, I'm ramblng. This is probably far more interesting to me than it is to anyone else!

Anyway, I have to admit one thing, much as I hate it. Because my toddler is not talking readily, and appears not to want to, it is affecting the way I bond with him - a very, very little. I love him to bits, but I want to feel my son seeks to communicate with me and the world at large, rather than being happily absorbed in his own. And talking is one of the tried and tested major ways of communicating. Selfish, I know, but there you go. I really hope I'll be posting news of his magical progress very soon.

Copper Wed 18-Apr-01 14:58:36

A friend of mine had a child who started to talk at 10 months, and was fluent when still really young. In case you are interested in what children this age are thinking, he used to ask complete strangers 'Have you got a willy?' or -even worse - 'Are you my daddy?'

Maybe having a late talker has it's good points! Einstein was one, I think.

Qd Wed 18-Apr-01 16:48:33

I really wouldn't worry. Children develop at different rates and in a young life a few months amazing changes can take place, as we all know. My own experience with my two is very different. My 3 year old boy said his first word at 9 months, my 18 month baby didn't say anything recognisable till she was at least 13 or 14 months (the same word - the cat's name!) She says quite a few things now but not that clearly. Other friends children haven't spoken till 20 months and one not till 2 and a half, in that case speech therapy was suggested and the mother just wasn't worried. At 3 and a quarter they all speak as fluently as each other, pretty much.

One thing I always do is reinforce the word and praise. When they say I word I recognise I say "flower - that's right, clever girl". My daughter says something which sounds like "happy" for a flower but because I know she means and she probably thinks she is saying flower I still say the above. Personally I don't think you should use the words they might actually be saying when you speak to them as they must think they are saying it as you do and might get confused. They are after all trying to learn to speak from you. One other thing, if you don't know what on earth they are saying and still don't know after asking maybe a couple of times, just agree with them. If they think they are doing it right they'll just keep trying until they really do. Hope this makes sense I'm trying to make supper and write this before AOL crashes on me again. Does anyone else use them and find that happens?!

Eulalia Wed 18-Apr-01 18:34:13

It is interesting to see how different children are but indeed they all talk eventually and I think we would know from other patterns of behaviour if there was a problem. Certainly slow speech isn't necessarily related to being slow in other ways. As you say Janh often averages are not very useful particularly when looking at something so complex as speech.

Tigermoth - what you say is interesting. Sometimes kids don't learn language in a way we would expect - ie labelling certain objects. I noticed that when my son was saying his "hat" word (now discarded) that he would use it for anything that went on the head, but he transferred the concept to anything that fitted onto something else. I would hear him saying "hat" when he put the lid onto something. This I thought was fascinating and quite clever of him. I think some kids are more thoughtful and therefore won't speak because they are too busy thinking! As for your concerns. Well I can understand that. Boys do seem to be a bit slower so I am sure he will "catch up" if that is right phrase to use.

Oh yes I forgot one word that my son uses "ta" and he learned it very quickly from my mother. He says it when he gives you things rather than receiving them but I think this is quite common. I think that this kind of social interaction, giving things, fetching things when asked for, looking at objects etc shows that the child is quite normal. As adults some of us don't talk much - we are all different.

PS my son has just started giving us 'proper' kisses which is lovely and even though he isn't saying much this helps in the interaction/bonding process.

Maia Wed 18-Apr-01 19:25:15

This dilema really strikes a cord with me as I have just recently gone through all these worries with my 26 month old son. At his 2 year check I was concerned that he wasn't talking as well as his peers - he still didn't use mommy or daddy - and the HV seemed a litttle concerned that he wasn't putting 2 words together. However, she asked if he uderstood commands etc, which he did and she said that he was probably just a late developer and that his speech would come in time. How right she was. Two months on and the difference is amazing. He is now using mommy, daddy, nanny, is aking for 'more pease' and much more. He seems to have become a proper little boy overnight.

Tigermoth, I can understand how you feel about the bonding. My son has always been really good at amusing himself and play on his own and it did hurt that he didn't say mommy (especially when he would sometimes use the name of his childminder, big guilt trip or what). But as I say, the difference 2 months has made is amazing. When he now says 'mommy, big hug' my heart just melts.

Robinw Wed 18-Apr-01 19:48:25

message withdrawn

Jac Wed 18-Apr-01 19:50:54

Eulalia, 'ta' is a common word. Mine were both taught this word early on by the grandparents, I suppose it's easier than saying thank you.

You want to start worrying when they come out with words that sound like rude words! 2 year old keeps saying bum, I'm not sure if she means bump or not. My 4 year old the other day misheard what I said and instead of saying hockey she said f*ckey!

This forgetting of words is common too, I remember my eldest doing the same thing. I should be grateful as although my 2 year old only usually says 2 words together, she also can count to 10 (learnt I guess from tape recorder) but has lost number 8 somewhere!

Yes, when they first kiss you it's lovely. Now my 2 yo wants to kiss everyone tho, delivery men, postman etc, but settles for blowing them a kiss instead!

Janh Wed 18-Apr-01 21:06:32

robinw - as far as budding engineers etc is concerned - i wonder if it's a coincidence that except for one, all these late talkers are boys? left brain/right brain?

Chelle Thu 19-Apr-01 00:14:33

Speaking of kids' funny pronounciation.....a friend of mine has a little boy (2.5 years) who is obsessed with trucks. His favourite truck is a tipper (dumptruck) which he pronouces as dumbf*ck, much to his parents' consternation!

Croppy Thu 19-Apr-01 06:39:58

Thanks a lot everyone for responding. It really is nice to get reassurance like this.

Debsb Mon 23-Apr-01 11:07:57

My youngest daughter called anyone doing the cooking 'mummy' - talk about stereotyping at an early age! Oh, and it was just as likely to be 'daddy' doing the cooking as me.

Chairmum Tue 24-Apr-01 19:18:00

Two of my children were early talkers and two late. My eldest (a boy) said his first word at 10 mths and by 18 mths you could hold a converstion with him.

No2 son developed very slowly (partly because No1 son seemed able to interpret the sign language and squeals that emanated from No2 son, hence no need to talk.) One breakfast time, when he was about 2yo I gave him a piece of bread and butter. He looked very annoyed and shouted "Said toast, not bread." I was astonished that from being able to say almost nothing he went straight into sentences. The funny thing was, he looked very guilty, as though he had been capable of speaking all along but had chosen not to. He'd now been rumbled! He's now at universtiy, studying psychology, sociology and French, so a slow start doesn't seem to have harmed him.

My No1 daughter spoke her first word at 9 mths, was talking in sentences by 16 mths and hasn't shut up since, 13 years on!!

No2 daughter was very slow to talk. I went away on my own for two weeks when she was 2 1/2 yrs and i remember being concerned that people wouldn't know what she wanted. She probably had between 20 and 30 words at that stage. But she clearly understood all that was said to her and was able to identify colours and so on. A couple of months later she began adding more and more words to her vocabulry and by three could hold her own with her peers. Now she is just 5yo and is able to describe abstract concepts such as how her brain keeps her (and me!)awake at night by making her head think!!

I've also heard that children can have a long time delay between being able to undertsand and actually saying a word, up to 20 weeks. So the new words that a child says today could well have been absorbed by him/her months ago, and I guess would account for a child suddenly saying for example, the name of a visitor, who has long since gone home.

Obviously, there are occasions when not talking can be an indication that something is wrong, but IME children can talk the hind leg off a donkey by the time they are 4!!

Clover Tue 14-Aug-01 14:42:02

My son is nearly 20 months and he only says four words - Mummy, Daddy, Oh Dear and Noo-Noo. This has never worried me because his Daddy was apparently a later talker (then came out with a full sentence out of nowhere, according to mum-in-law) and he understands so much and can point to most things I ask him too. I know he hasn't a hearing problem, so I'm just going to wait until he does it in his own good time... It will give me a shock one day if he suddenly says, "Mummy, I've been able to talk for ages but just didn't feel like it until now!"

Munchkinsugarpie Tue 14-Aug-01 23:14:39

I'm so pleased to read these messages. I posted one a few weeks ago about the same subject, i.e., my boy is a late talker, and got lots of response, trouble is, it was quite mixed in its opinions so I was none the wiser really.

My little boy is 2yrs 5mths and still only has about a dozen words to his repetoire. A couple of them are strung together, like 'Daddy work' 'more please' which is really, 'more pee'!
and more'gen which is more and again.

It seems to have reached a plateau since he was 2 and no new words seem to be occuring at all. Just like everybody elses experience, he seems to understand everything and fetches and carries to order (that sounds awful!) I'm just watching the clock and waiting for this miraculous sentence to burst forth..... I think I must just relax and let him go at his own pace. He was premature as well......... wonder if that makes a difference? Seems everyone's experiences are so different you just have to keep your fingers crossed and plod on naming things for him, and keeping sentences short and understandable. (Got that one from a book......)

Selja Mon 05-Nov-01 21:36:58

My son is two at the end of November and doesn't speak apart from babble. He has had a hearing test which is fine although he has to go back as he had a cold and so they want to check it again. the doctor said he has a short attention span - isn't this true of all two year olds? Ciaran is far advanced in all his activity/motor neurone skills and is bigger than average. Now they're sending him to speech therapy. I think he's normal and just too busy being advanced in activity to learn to talk. He understands me fine (especially when I tell him not to do something even if he ignores me!!) but now I'm thinking I'm blind to his problems as I'm his mother. Should I be worried?

Alibubbles Tue 06-Nov-01 11:17:06

The little boy I look after is 2 tomorrow, he doesn't say anything at all, not even mummy! He understands everything and can follow instructions said in a normal voice, so hasn't a hearing problem. He just points and grunts! He has the intonation when he says Bob the Builder, but no words. I have looked after about 30 kids in my time and have never had this before. I talk to him all he time and read stories etc but am slightly worried.

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