18 answers

18 Month Year Only Saying a Few Words

Hi! I had a question. My son is 18 months and only says mama, dada, yeah, doggie, hi, oh, and mmm! He does a lot of talking to himself in the baby jargain. How many words should he be saying now? Does anyone know how I could get him to talk more. For the most part when he says things I know what he is talking about or looking for. We have gotten together with friends whose kids are the same age, and some of them talk more them him or even less then him. ( I know I am not supposed to compare him to others but it can be emotional when you see others kids his age talking more) He plays really well with others. He was also a late walker (16 1/2 months) and I wasn't sure if that had anything to do with it. He is a very happy baby! I try to read to him to show him more words but he only last about 3 pages. I've also been working with him on animal sounds and where his body parts are but he seems to lose interest after awhile. Is this normal? For my first child I wasn't sure. Any advice would be wonderful. Thanks!

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My 18 1/2 month old son just started this week to add more words. All of the sudden he is copying what we say (oops! have to be really careful about that). His MD has not been too concerned since he is able to convey his wants and needs and is basically on track otherwise. Good luck!

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I think I asked this exact same question when my daughter was 18 months but she was saying far fewer words then your son is. Sounds to me like he's right on track. My daughter is 2 1/2 and she's just now starting to do a lot of talking. My doctor told me that if your child is very good at his motor skills then he may be a little late in talking and vice versa. That was the deal with our daughter, she had great motor skills for her age but not so much with the talking. I remember friends telling me to chill out that once she starts talking she won't stop and it'll take off from there and they were all right. Now there are some days I long NOT to hear Mommy! ha ha ha I think he's doing fine and your doing everything right. I bet in another couple months he wont STOP talking. Good luck. If you begin to feel he's behind and you want him to get help ask your doctor for the number of Early Education and they'll come out and test him, usually for free or reduced prices. If they find he's got a delay, they'll work with him. We almost did this with my daughter but it was like she knew because the week she had her appointment she learned like 10 new words!

My 18 1/2 month old son just started this week to add more words. All of the sudden he is copying what we say (oops! have to be really careful about that). His MD has not been too concerned since he is able to convey his wants and needs and is basically on track otherwise. Good luck!

Hi K.,

Our 18 month old says no words consistantly, although jabbers like crazy! He was evaluated a couple of weeks ago, through the Early Intervention program, and the speech therapist agreed that there isn't anything keeping him from learning how to talk (like autism for example), he is just going to learn at his own speed. So for us, speech therapy is an option for our son. The evaluation was free and everything was done in our home. And if we opt to have ST, that can be done in our home as well, at a time that works for us and our son. This is a really great program, and really made me feel at ease with his development. In order to start the ball rolling, you need to get a referral from his pediatrician, and they can also give you the number to call Early Intervention in your area. It's pretty easy! Hope this helps!


Try the Priddy Books. They are basically words and realisstic pictures. My son was two in May and has a large vocabulary and even speaks in small sentences. He loved these books. I think you reading to him is great. And keep in mind, some kids justg talk later. A friend of mine once told me that her brither didn;t say much until he was three and immediately spoke in sentences. Good Luck.

K. O.

Early Intervetion from the State of Illinois can do great help & if you are in duPage Ct. Communcation clubhouse at ###-###-#### will be able to assist you further for help your child needs. Good luch

I am going through the same thing with my 21 month old son. He only says mama and dog. I spoke with my pediatrician who seemed really concerned. I had him evaluated and he was referred to the department of childen and family services. They came out to my home to evaluate him and referred him for speech therapy. I was very happy with all of the therapists that have been involved with him so far. He will be starting weekly speech therapy in a couple of weeks. I have been given a lot of reassurance that he will catch up to all of the other kids and be just fine. Have you had your son's hearing checked? My son also had to have tubes placed and an adenoidectomy due to frequent ear infections and slight hearing loss.

At 18 months, the only word my daughter knew was "no!" The pediatrician was concerned and had us go through the early intervention program and have her evaluated. They did recommend speech therapy for her, but she was fine in every other way so we decided to wait. I talked to the speech therapist at the school where I teach and she told me to start using some baby signs with her. We used only 2 signs...more and help. Once my daughter learned those, she used them frequently and then started suddenly talking non stop. Our school district has a preschool screening for kids ages 3-5...we just had my daughter evaluated (she just turned 3) and they say she is now age appropriate, but they did recommend she be screened again for speech in about 4 months.
Remember that every kid develops at their own rate.
Good luck!

My son is doing the same things and he is almost 2 next month. We actually have a early intervention assessment for him on August 16. They assess his speech, gross motor, behavior and other things. It is free of charge to get him assessed. It is better to be safe than sorry. it is putting our worries to rest to have another person assess him and tell us if there is anything we should worry about. 16 1/2 months is on the late side to walk. My son was the same way-he walked at 14 months but was a preemie-born two months early. If you have any questions or would like more information on the Early Intervention Program, please email me at ____@____.com

All children progress differently. We taught our daughter to sign. (there is a lot of controversy for that too but it is a passion of mine and since I know it I felt I should use it) Our daughter didn't utter a peep until she was about a year old and the pediatrician was a little upset about it. But I could sign a sentence to her and she answered! Why should I worry... She is 2 1/2 years old and just started speaking more clearly where I can actually understand what she is saying. Just before her 2nd birthday she started putting two words together and still jibber jabbered. They all catch up around the age of 3. Relax, unless your child is starting to stutter or lose words etc. I wouldn't worry about it.

I too have a daughter of few words. At 24 months we had her peds doctor give us a referral to Easter Seals and they came out and evaluated her. She was 44% behind (anything over 30% is considered behind)and is now in speech therapy once a week. She has been doing this since May and it has made a world of difference. I honestly do not know if it is the therapy working or if this is just her time to start talking. What the therapist does with her is she plays with her one on one. While they play she insists that my daughter "asks" for what she wants. Alot of the focus is on "more, all done, no, yes, animal sounds, on top, fall down, bang bang, etc." It is very repetative and very basic. So now when I play with her I try to follow that same guideline.
I also wanted to share that she did not walk either until she was 15 months. I do wonder if that has something to do with it? We did experience a delay in her advancement when #2 came along 3 months ago. She kind of reverted back to some baby stuff to get attention but is past that now. I see you have a new one too. Maybe that could be adding to it too.
Each kid is so very different and please do try not to compare. I do it too, it's hard not too. But I am sure your little one is leaps and bounds over someone else in another area. Good luck.

I haven't read the other responses because it's late at night but my son is 20 months and has about 7 words. He still doesn't say "mama" - he calls me "ba". I wouldn't worry (yet). Boys develop verbally later than girls, for one, and also there is such a large window of what's "normal". If it's bothering you, you could ask his doctor. But I read the other day that about 7 words at 18 months means he's doing fine. It's not a warning sign by any means. And as for animal sounds and body parts, I was all worried that my son didn't know his body parts until yesterday when he was only slightly distracted by a toy and he pointed to his nose and toes when I asked him. I think your son probably knows them, there's just much more interesting stuff out there to be paying attention to! It'll come when you least expect it. My son doesn't have much patience for books either. Everybody's different - I'm sure he has strengths that you wouldn't even think about just because books and magazines make us think that talking is just about the only important milestone. I'm sure he's fine! Good luck!

We had the same concern. At about 16 months he was tested at Children's Memorial in Glenview. It is in a section of the Glenbrook Hospital. It turned out to be a hearing problem.
Tubes were put in his ears, to clear fluid, and at almost 2 1/2 he is doing great. Truthfully, if you do not suspect a medical problem, I would wait until he is 2 and see what you think. I was under the impression they all started talking in paragraphs by the age of about one. JUST KIDDING. I think he probably just neeeds some more time. If you can get him together with other 18m to say 4 year old children he would pick up alot just by being around them, interacting. Ours did.

Hi K.!

Sorry for the late response, I just got back from vacation and felt like I really should respond to your request. I have a 27 month old with a very similar vocabulary that called me "Dada" up til just before his second birthday. He has an older brother that talks ALL the time, but he tries to talk, but just doesn't seem to get many intelligable words out at all!

I talked to his Dr. at his 2 year check up (which I went to 2 months late) and he too was concerned first about his hearing and then about speech. I am a teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids so in my heart I knew it wasn't hearing, but we had his hearing checked just to make sure, and it was normal. I was also slightly concerned about autisum (mostly because he WAS saying some words but then stopped saying them) so I went for a full evaluation at Child and Family Connections in Joliet, a state agency for early intervention for Will county. They had a team of 4 professionals evaluate him, including a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist and Developmental Therapist, and found his LANGUAGE is somewhat delayed, however his speech is very delayed, mostly at the 12 month level. He is eligable for speech therapy, due to his delays. They also ruled out Autisum which was such a load off my back!

Before his evaluation I found a helpful websit that gives an idea of what children should be doing at different ages:


This is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. They are the moitoring system for all speech and language therapists in IL. As a preschool teacher I found early intervention to be such an important thing when it comes to a child's success later on. I hope this information helps!


My son who is now 8 didn't start talking until he was almost 4. We were worried and took him to many Dr's and a private speech therapist. He went to a special needs preschool. Got special services at our school district and is now going into 3rd grade this fall. Once he started talking he was fine. Now, he talks and talks and we can't get him to shut up! haha. He's been tested over and over again and he's totally fine. He's going to be in the gifted program at the 7th grade level. He's my second kid and my older one is a girl who talked right from the beginning. yes, we worried, but what seemed to be a problem, was just that wanted to just take his time and only talk when he had something to say.

Only time will tell....maybe your son just wants to talk on his own terms.

Hi K.!
I experienced same when my 3 year old was 18 months. He had no additional word development thru 24 months. Our pediatrician referred us to Child & Family Connections of DuPage. A coordinator was assigned to us and Roland was evaluated for speech delay. He failed each test and he received help thru this early intervention program. Everything was done at our home. At 29 months he was re-evaulated for behavioral issues and a developmental and emotional delay were found. Additional therapy was added -- occupational and behavioral therapy...again all done at home. Early intervention was the best thing we did for Roland. Everyone was saying we were crazy -- all boys are slow. But my instinct told me something else. The sooner you get him evaluated the better. Early Intervention is covered by the state so you pay a monthly fee based on your income and family size and you get services only until he is 3 years old. A few months before Roland's 3rd birthday, our coordinator contacted our school district and he was evaluated again by the school system. He was accepted into Lisle's early childhood program and is doing wonderfully. Best of luck -- I hope this was helpful!!
Lisle, Illinois

I was worried when my twins only had 5 words and animal sounds at 18 months. They also knew where a few body parts were when asked. I was thinking about getting a professional opinion, but once they hit 2 years old the language exploded!!! Some kids talk later than others. I was glad I waited to see how they progressed once they turned 2. They are now 28 months and can speak in a sentence.

My daughter didn't say much past what your son says until about 2 and a half. My friends were starting to roll there eyes at me and the more bold ones were starting to recommend speech therapists.
One morning we were standing in the kitchen and she looked up at me and asked "mommy can I have a glass of water please?"
I'm not even kidding.
She's three now and everyone comments on how they can't believe her vocabulary. Which I think is just in reaction to her slow start, but she is incredibly articulate now.
Wait it out! Continue to talk to him, read him books, and don't worry! Particularly if he was a late walker, he's probably just on his own track. It's not a bad thing. Good luck!

It seems like people always have conflicting opinions on this issue because there's such a huge variation in when kids start talking and how fast they add to their vocabulary, but really the opinion that matters is yours. Trust your mommy instinct on this. If you are concerned that he might be behind, my advice would be to have him evaluated through the Early Intervention program, which your pediatrician can help you contact. That way you will have objective documentation of his development just in case there is a delay that doesn't resolve on its own, and you can put your mind at ease if they say he's on track. The evaluation should be free and should also include a hearing test, among others. (We had a neighbor who swore up and down that her child could hear, and had even passed the hearing screening at birth, but when tested just after age 2 was deaf in both ears and now has cochlear implants.) A speech delay can also affect other areas of development, but they will do a general evaluation before the speech eval to check. Even if they find a delay, you can still wait to see if he grows out of it if you feel he is making progress. Sometimes it takes a while to get into the system though, so I would at least schedule the evaluation.

We went through EI with my firstborn when he was 18 mos and speaking about as much as your son. I could tell that he was sometimes frustrated that we didn't always understand what he wanted. They did speech therapy at our house for about 5 months. Maybe he would have started talking on his own, but then again, maybe not, we'll never know. He still speaks more clearly now than most kids in his class and he's going into second grade. My second son started talking early - maybe because his older brother was such a chatterbox by then!

Whether or not you decide to have him evaluated, make sure to talk to your son throughout your daily activities. Describe what you are doing as you cook dinner, or get him or the baby dressed, or anything that you are doing. You are way more interesting to your child than any book. You can also get a book on baby signs at the library if you want to try a few of the basics like "more" and "milk" to see if he's interested. Sometimes learning a few signs gets the ball rolling for more speech development. Good luck!

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