39 answers

Child Development - Does Your 1 Year Old Say "What's That?" and Point?

My sister in-law has cautioned me that because my 1 year old daughter (16 months) doesn't point to objects and ask "whats that?" that I should be looking into an Autism assessment. I have my Early Childhood Education but have been out of the field since 2003. Also my many years of experience is with 3-5 year old and children of that age with special needs not infants and toddlers but still no red flags came up for me. Every child is different, and although it is common for children to do that I don't think every child does it. My daughter is social, gives eye contact, and says over 30 words with at least 15 that others besides me can understand. That being said my sister in-laws comment still lingers in my head.
- So is anyone who is trained in infant and toddler development out there to put my mind at ease? Experienced Mommies too :0)
Is it a missed milestone and or a concern if she doesn't point to things and ask what they are?

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I have no training (formal, anyway) but none of my three children said or did anything like that until they were two. And they are completely developmentally normal.

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I do not remember either of my boys doing that, and at 4 and 6 they are happy, interactive, and intelligent boys. All kids are different, and not asking what something is does not mean they are slow or not developing normally, it just means they do not care to know what that thing is! :) (or they all ready know because they heard you talk about it)

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Hi T.,
I just had to comment on this. I am a Speech Language Pathologist. You sister-in-law is incorrect about you needing to be worried about Autism. Every child develops at their own rate and if you daughter is social, makes eyecontact and says several words than you're fine. The rest will come in time! :) On a personal note, my son didn't start asking what things were and talking in sentences until about 20-22 months and now at 32 months he won't shut up!! Hope this helps

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First, you are absolutely correct. I have been working with children for over 18 years and have seen plenty of NON-AUTISTIC children exhibit "point and ask" (often asking by pointing itself) at 2 years old. It all depends on so many things, more than I can write about here. But no, it isn't a missed milestone or concern.

Just curious, but does your SIL have children of her own? An ECE? Years in childcare?

I've noticed a trend recently: politely put, A lot of people who have no business mentioning autism have begun to "warn" their friends/relatives about concerns for their child. This is usually because the uninformed person narrowly assumes that if another child exhibits behaviors or actions unlike theirs, there must be something wrong. Add to that all the bad information traveling through the ether about autism, and it's really enough to make a lot of halfway informed people socially dangerous. And so they make really stupid suggestions or warnings, without a thought as to the mental acrobatics parents will go through. Not to be rude, but they really just need to shut up. Unless someone actually does assessment with developmentally disabled children or has a broad experience of what child development "looks" like, they really need to keep it to themselves!

Sorry you got caught up in someone else's nonsense. Your daughter sounds fine. Go with your gut.

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I am trained in toddler development,so maybe I can set your mind at ease. While pointing to things and asking what they are is common, it is not necessarily a developmental milestone. As long as your daughter can name and identify up to 10 things and she is relatively verbal and tries to communicate with you, I wouldn't worry about it. Eye contact is also a good indicator that she is right on track.
Autism is a buzz word right now, and it causes a lot of panic. But as an ECE professional, you know that there are many more signs of this than just one missed milestone. Children develop in different areas at different times (she might be lacking in gross motor skills but doing awesome in fine motor), and while she might be lacking in one area, she is probably excelling in others. It will all balance out in the end. There are some online resources to help refresh your memory of the developmental process, such as http://www.firstsigns.org. Do some research if you are concerned, and trust your instincts.

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My son never talked until he was 2 1/2 and now he is four and says all kinds of big words. My SIL is a grade 2 teacher and she says she has kids is her class that don't know the alphabet like my son does! don't worry. I think often so my pressure and expectations are put on children under 2 and us parents need to stop comparing every milestone with our friends kids etc.

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Hi T.,

I see you have a TON of advice already but I wanted to put my 2 cents in there as well. I have an early childhood special education degree and I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with your daughter. I am very encouraged by your description of her vocabulary, and the fact that you said 15 other people can understand her. You also mentioned that she also has very good eye contact and is pretty social. If she was indeed autistic, she wouldn't be displaying these behaviors. So, take a deep breath, relax, and remember you are doing everything right mama! From everything you have written, your daughter is right on track, and you are doing everything a good mom should be doing!

As others have said, some children go through a "what's that" phase and others don't. It's not a hard and fast milestone, so no worries if she never does it. However, she may do it a little older, say between 2 and 3. Another poster suggested bringing the topic up at your next well baby appointment with your pediatrician, which is an excellent idea; I am sure your doctor will reassure you!

Good luck, and just be sure to relax and enjoy your precious daughter! Oh, and don't forget that you are a good mommy! :)

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Mine didn't. She actually barely said anything at 1. maybe a handful of words (mommy, daddy) and a few signs.
She is two now and perfectly normal and chattering away in two languages. Her language development really stared to pick up at about 18-20 months and now she surprises me with new words every week.
I would just ignore your SIL's comments or if you are really worried, talk to your pediatrician.

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I don't remember my boys saying "what's that" at that age. I think it was closer to two. If you weren't concerned before she said anything then I wouldn't worry. If she has no professional experience I would let her know that I appreciate her opinion but do not feel the same way and let it go. People are too quick to judge and label children these days. They all grow at different rates and meet milestones differently. If you just can't stop worrying then make an appointment with your doctor to clear your mind. Good luck.

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Hi T.:

I definitely say that your SIL's statement is bull, sorry for the wording here! As you say yourself, every child is different. Our daughter is going to be 2 next month, and still doesn't ask us for the names of objects. If her child wants to know, great. Our daughter is more the tactile type and likes to explore things herself. As long as your daughter is social, speaks, etc. just follow your own instincts. If there was something wrong with your daughter, you would notice it, and your pediatrician would also recommend intervention if necessary.

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I think your gut instinct is correct. If she seems fine to you, she is probably fine. I read your letter, and I wanted to begin my response with "baloney", but I decided to be polite and tell you that question comes at different ages for different children.

My children never did the what's that question. They did the why question and that went on forever. Count your blessings if you only have the what's that question.

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