25 answers

How Many Words/sentances Should a 2-Year Old Be Speaking?

My son will be 23 months old in just a few weeks. Today, his Dr stated that if he is not speaking more words by his 2nd year appointment - that he will recommend a hearing test and possibly some speech training. (How much difference can 6-weeks make, really?) Neither of us believe there is anything wrong with his hearing, we have plenty of experiences where we know he can hear and understand what is being said. Allbeit, there have been times of stubbornness where he has intentionally ignored us. :-)

My son understands LOTS of words and complete sentances. I can hand him something and tell him to go put it in his room or give it to daddy and he will. He can say some words, (ma-ma, da-da, ba-ba, ball and a few others) but he would prefer to either get whatever he wants (without asking for it) or if he doesn't know the word, he points and we will tell him what it is and say the word about 3 or 4 times for him. *Surprisingly enough, "No!" isn't one of the words we expected him to know and say at this age. LOL *

Maybe I'm just over-reacting? I've read TONS of posts that all say "boys are slower than girls when it comes to talking, and "He'll speak when he's ready" and the like.

How do I know when there is truly an issue and to be concerned?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

50 words that don't include family members or pets names. and they should be able to say "want drink" so like two-word phrases...that said...at 24 months other than family and pets dd could say no, yes, want, dink(drink), ice, light and bite. about 6-8 weeks later I made her mad because I had a sprite and she wanted it, all she kept saying was "want dink" and I kept saying not now as we were in the car. She got really upset started crying and then stopped crying when I got the gas station...said "mommy, want dink, NOW" I said--well, that's talking more--if you'll talk for it, you can have it...she's never shut up since. LOL!

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My Grandson will be nine in a few weeks and he has been diagnosed with Speech Apraxia but not until he was in 1st grade in school. He was checked for hearing (but that was about all we could get the Drs to do early on) because his hearing was ok they didn't think it necessary to go farther. When he did try to talk it came out as gobbledy gook, another Grandson who was a few years older than him asked me what language he was speaking. When he was in first grade we finally got his diagnosis and treatment was then started. He made rapid progress and we are so releaved, but if we could have had the diagnosis sooner he would have been much further along. He would have been elligible for help as young as 2 or 3 and might not have been as bad or have required to still be in speech therapy at nearly 9.
This affects all their language skills, reading, writing, the way words are used as well as the context they are used and the speech itself.
I know this is long and involved, but I'm telling you this to make a point. If you have a Dr who is smart enough to realize there might be a problem and willing to have him tested then by all means let him if they find a problem the sooner he has speech therapy and other help the quicker there can be progress and if they don't find anything the sooner your mind can rest easy.
Believe me this is a the sooner the better type of thing. Also there is State and Federal help available in most states for the extra expenses involved in the treatment so that shouldn't be a worry.
Because of the delay in getting help for my Grandson he still has a bit of trouble with anything to do with speech and language and spelling. He's a real whiz in math and science and anything to do with imagination and his speech has improved till you can understand him very well unless he gets excited and then you have to tell him slow down and repeat it.
So, please let them test your son, the sooner the better and good luck and God Bless.

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I have two experiences I can share with you.

I had 90 percent hearing loss as a child. My mother thought I was stubborn, so did the doctor - because I could understand everything everyone said to me. This went on until I was about 5 years old. I was reading lips !!!! I still have a talent for doing so, but tubes fixed my hearing and I hear fine now.

My little boy, now 4, wasn't talking a lot at two. He had a lot of ear infections at that age - at least once a month. We got tubes in his ears, went through speech therapy and hearing tests, etc... He is now doing great !! I would do the hearing tests, and speech therapy all over again.

But, there is really no way to tell unless you get him tested - it is just the best thing to do.

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This seems like the same exact story as my son. Last year during his 2 yr old check up we went through this. He was only saying maybe 5 words. We were not sure what to do but just to be safe, we went through the testing. His hearing was fine but his speech was delayed. (So the Dr. said) We started with speech therapy and I would do it again. Within just 1 month, he was saying more words! He now is saying so much I couldn't even count. He will turn 3 this summer. I would for sure have him checked out. If you don't and there was a problem, you'll never forgive yourself for brushing it under the rug or thinking nothing was wrong. I think we were just doing some things wrong and that's why he wasn't picking up on all types of words. The therapist will also train you on how to get him to say things which is awesome! Good luck!

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Hey L., i wouldn't get too worried at this point, if the Dr wants to test hearing i dont' think that ever hurts just to confirm that all is well, but i personally wouldn't get into speech therapy at this point. I had one son that spoke full sentences at 14 months...(it was amazing) he still is a talker. THe other we had to refuse to give him things or do things till he would say it....it wasn't that he couldn't talk, he chose not to...when we quit accomodating him he started talking (he was 2 1/2 by that point), he's 21 now and still not a talker.....my grandchildren as the same, one talks constantly and one just gets her point across...they are brother and sister....it sounds like your son is just fine, if he understands what you say and the commands that you give......no worries....R.

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6 weeks can make a HUGE difference. It seems like my son woke up one morning and his vocabulary had doubled. It is very possible and I wouldn't worry to much about it. Just talk to him alot and point out what things are in his environment (airplane, truck, bus, flower, spoon, fork, etc.).
Good luck!!!

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"What to Expect-The Toddler Years" says by 18 months they should be sayng 50+ words. I taught pre-school for 3 years and got discouraged when we would recommend a speech evaluation for a child and one parent would object. Just imagine how frustrating it can be for child who can't be understood by caregivers and friends and his parents won't do anything about it. I see absolutely no harm in having his hearing tested and having him see a speech pathologist-kids going to speech is more common than you may think. Doing this now is preferable to waiting until he's in Kindergarten when it can be embarassing.
I'm not saying there is an issue, he could just be stubborn and his language may blossom any day (even in the next 6 weeks!)But I'm sure you would do anything to help your son whenever possible. God bless, let us know what you decide and how it turns out!

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Here's something I found online:

From 18 to 24 Months
Kids should have a vocabulary of about 20 words by 18 months and 50 or more partial words by the time they turn 2. By age 2, kids should be learning to combine two words, such as "baby crying" or "Daddy big." A 2-year-old should also be able to follow two-step commands (such as "Please pick up the toy and bring me your cup").

From 2 to 3 Years
Parents often witness an "explosion" in their child's speech. Your toddler's vocabulary should increase (to too many words to count) and he or she should routinely combine three or more words into sentences.

Comprehension also should increase — by 3 years of age, a child should begin to understand what it means to "put it on the table" or "put it under the bed." Your child also should begin to identify colors and comprehend descriptive concepts (big versus little, for example).

You can also go to ASHA.ORG and click on the child speech and language link. This is the American Speech-Language-Hearing association website. They have a public link and the top and you can futher click on normal speech development link.

I work in rehab and am familiar with speech therapy. There is nothing wrong with having to refer your child to such a service. You would rather do it now than when he's in school and that much farther behind. Usually the therapist can work with the 2 of you a couple of days a week for 1+ months, depending upon the delay...I know this is not what you want to hear, but he should be saying much more!

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50 words that don't include family members or pets names. and they should be able to say "want drink" so like two-word phrases...that said...at 24 months other than family and pets dd could say no, yes, want, dink(drink), ice, light and bite. about 6-8 weeks later I made her mad because I had a sprite and she wanted it, all she kept saying was "want dink" and I kept saying not now as we were in the car. She got really upset started crying and then stopped crying when I got the gas station...said "mommy, want dink, NOW" I said--well, that's talking more--if you'll talk for it, you can have it...she's never shut up since. LOL!

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My son was also a slow talker and at the age of 2 was a very serious, very quiet fellow. He spoke very few words. It took him longer than most of his peers to begin putting full sentences together even though I read to him frequently at that age. He eventually began talking our ears off. If you can see that he is hearing and understanding, I wouldn't worry much about it right now. At a later time,though, there would be an age at which, if his speech seems to need a little help, you might want to condsider hearing tests and such. Speech lessons are wonderful for getting those phonics sounds cleared up but I would think it's a little early. Enjoy this stage; for they grow up too soon! J. W

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I would recommend having the hearing test just to rule it out. I have a 17 year old daughter who is deaf and your story sounds a lot like hers. She is my second child and at 18 months she could only say da da and bye bye, I got worried and started asking everyone if they thought there was something wrong with her hearing. I asked my husband, people at church, her sunday school teachers and my friends. Everyone told me that they thought she heard fine. Hearing loss can be very deceiving, it is not like turning a radio up or down. There are several frequencies across the audiogram and a hearing loss is not always across all frequencies. My daughter could hear some of those frequencies better than others and therefore we thought she heard just fine. The audiologist challenged us with paying attention to how many visual clues we were giving her, which is why we thought she could hear. We were suprised that we were actually doing alot of pointing and head movements and she was following our visual clues to follow directions.

I really hope that your son's hearing is not impaired in any way, however, if it is it is VERY IMPORTANT for early intervention. We started speech therapy when our daughter was 20 months old and she is now a highly successful student and individual. She reads lips and speaks clearly and until you are around her for quite some time you wouldn't realize that she can't hear you when you speak. I can share more about our experiences if you would like to hear, just respond back.

Good luck!

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Hey L.,

I am not certain the amount of words/sentences a 2yr old should be speaking even thought my daughter just turned 2. I say this because she is very advanced in vocabulary, on the other hand she wouldn't walk until 14months and due to acid reflux she is still behind on feeding. But boy can she talk. Some of it I take credit for, in that I when she starts to mumble or fuss, I tell her " I can't understand you, speak up." or "what did you say?" and we do this over and over again until she speaks claerly and I get it. She also follows instructions but we add to that by questioning her, i.e. when she wants her juice and it is on the cube in the living room, I tell her this and to go get it, as she is apporaching the juice, I will say where is your juice and she would for awhile reply "right here" but now she says "on the cube."
Some of your sons delay might be that he has no need to talk as you respond to his pointing. But it might also be a hearing deficit. What I can say, is that either way it never hurts to follow up on any medical recommendations and it is always better to catch something early on. I do agree that boy's speech develops slower than girl's and that they tend to walk first and girls take longer. But again I would consider it an issue if you doctor is concerned and it it might be something simple like fluid in his ears or that he is just stubborn.
So do not be overly concerned but make an appointment for a hearing evaluation and follow whatever course of treatment is needed and best suits your family. I do hope your little man gets to speaking better soon. And every child has something they lagg on, getting help early on makes all the difference. I speak from experience not really wanting to see an occupational therapist for my daughter's feeding issues but in the end we did benefit moderately and well it was nice to know i was doing all i could before and after the help.
Best Wishes,
-MB

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You have gotten some good advice and I agree with what has been said. Just an observation from a former Pre-K, K teacher....are you and your husband very verbal people? Does your child hear conversation in your home, is he read to daily for at least 20 minutes, do you and your husband converse with him? All these things are important. Along that same line, there are statics on how many words words a child should hear in his early years? That has a definite relations to the verbal skills children develop, sorry I do not remember the number but it is larger than one would think. I have taught (in my 27 years in the classroom) children who hardly said anything that wasn't absolutely necessary and sometimes not then. Sometimes it was due to an older sibling answering them and there was no need for them to speak until they were in a situation without the crutch of someone else speaking for them. Another thing that is very prevalent in our family is my husband, nor any of his family are very verbal. On the other hand, as you can see from this post, I am as well as most of my family are the exact opposite. It has all worked out with our two adult children, both quite verbal if they wish to be and not if they prefer silence. Do go ahead with the hearing test if your doctor still recommends it, when he gets to K the school should do one but why wait if there is something that could be corrected now. God bless, your son is also blessed to have a mother on top of her child rearing skills. His P-K teacher will know something about this, she can give you some ideas as well.

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The others are probably right, that he will speak soon enough. However, it wouldn't hurt to follow your doctor's advice and have his hearing tested, just in case. That way you could avoid having problems later on. As far as speech therapy goes, I would tend to wait on that unless there is in fact an issue with hearing. Enjoy your little guy!

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Hi L.. I'd prefer to have a physician who is concerned than not. The federal government offers FREE developmental testing in each state through Early Childhood Intervention. My second child was a premie and he had strange gaps in his speech, such as he'd say giraffe but with other animals he'd use their sounds to identify them. He wasn't consistent with putting words together for sentences and of course my first son used 5-7 word sentences at 18 months. So as a social worker I told my pediatrician I wanted another developmental screen (he passed the one at 9 months)(they check out all areas such as gross and fine motor skills to make sure I wasn't missing anything besides speech). As it turned out he qualified for speech therapy and until age three whatever insurance doesn't pay, your state will. Fortunately at age three he had made enough progress to end his speech therapy. Also, since most schools curriculum's are designed more for females you want to give your son every advantage, because Kindergarten will be here before you know it.
My boys are now 3 1/2 and 8 1/2. Hope this helps.

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I see you have a lot of responses already, but just wanted to put in my 2 cents worth. My now 7 year old son was the same way. He didn't want to speak and when he started primary class at school at the age of 3, the first thing they said was maybe he needed speech therapy. Well we waited and before you know it he was speaking just like the rest of the kids. We realized that even though we were trying to get him to speak, he didn't have to. I wouldn't worry about it yet. If you don't think he can hear you, have his hearing checked. If he responds to sounds and words he is probably just fine. My husband and I still laugh about having concerns about him speaking. He can go on and on now.

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I brought the same concern to my ped when we went for our 2 year check up. My DS had limited vocabulary. She offered speech therapy, but I wanted to wait a couple of months first. Within weeks of that appointment, his vocabulary exploded! He was talking so much more that friends and family commented on how fast his vocabulary expanded. He's now 31 months and talks in complete sentences and can sit and tell you an entire story. Be patient.

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There is no set amount of words or sentences that a child should be speaking by two years old, however, it would not hurt anything to have his hearing checked. It is not invasive and would ease any fears you may have about that possibility. By not speaking,and just pointing, it sounds to me like he is just playing a game and leading you around by the nose. He gets what he wants without any effort on his part. I had a child of mine try the same thing with me. I solved this problem by not playing his game. Whenever he would point at something without saying the name of the object I would act like I didn't know what he was pointing at. I kept this up until he either gave up or said what it was he wanted. This took a little while but it worked. Believe me, by the time they are two they know how to manipulate mommy and daddy. Just refuse to play his game and he will be speaking in no time at all.

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I'll tell you, I worried about my son as well. He could understand absolutely anything you told him. Words, sentences, it didn't matter, he knew what you were talking about. I started when he was probably 18 months old and made him ask for something if he wanted it and within a couple of weeks, he realized that and would start using words to ask for milk, food, or whatever. I was worried about him later on because he didn't want to speak in sentences. He would tell you the word and that was just about it. At some point around his 2nd birthday, it all clicked with him and he started putting everything in sentences! Granted, they're not all complex. Sometimes it's a simple as Milk please Momma or as complex as Look Momma, Mater's in the sky in the helicopter! My son had done everything else early, so I was expecting him to be at the full sentence stage long before he was. He went very quickly, probably within 2 weeks from just words to sentences with everything, so 6 weeks might make a difference with your son.

If the doctor's worried at his 2 year checkup, the hearing test won't hurt anything and you might find something that could be easily corrected. I do think speech training can help a child if done early, because a child I used to babysit for started speech therapy at 3 since he had a VERY strong lisp and couldn't speak hardly any words correctly and by age 5 with weekly visits, he could say everything perfectly. Your child is probably just taking his own sweet time and it may be that he's so smart he doesn't feel the need to talk. Also, since he goes and gets what he wants, he probably doesn't see the need to ask for it. I wouldn't stress at this point. Just work with him on saying more words and be thankful his favorite word isn't no like my son!

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The reason your dr. wants to wait the 6 weeks. has to do with percentage of delay. his vocabulary most likely won't be much different but he will be older, therefore making his percentage higher. As for the hearing test. IT is well worth it to have it done, to make sure that what you are saying is what he is hearing. Sometimes kids may have water on their ears etc from congestion that is cronic and they are hearing you like they are underwater. Therefore it would be harder to repeat what you are saying. Don't worry, every kid develops a little differently and everyone has strengths that show up stronger first. especially at this young age. So, he will speak, he will be fine and most of all he is loved. so take you dr's advice, that's what you go to him, because what will it hurt? absolutely nothing. If this was surgery or something invasive, I would say get a second opionion etc. But we are talking about a hearing test and possibly playing with a speach therapist once a week. Won't hurt a thing and could possibly help. ! goodl luck

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I think it's wonderful that your doctor is concerned and monitoring his speech so closely. I work with kids with lots of physical problems, some with and some without speech problems. So often I see kids who I'm concerned about and the doctors poo-poo it away, saying it will happen when it happens. Often, that is true, but sometimes a little help is needed, and the earlier you start, the better.

Speech therapists usually don't evaluate a child before age 2 because they can't do much until then. Most of their tests start at their age. An evaluation can't hurt. Most likely they will say everything is fine, but they may give you some great ideas of things to do at home to help encourage speech. A really good speech therapist can do lots with a 2 year-old if they need help. Getting a little speech help now can help avoid needing lots of help later, in school. 1 of every 8 boys doesn't say much at all before age 2, so your son is probably just one of these kids, but it might make you feel a lot better to know there's nothing else going on. Good luck!

My oldest daughter had a hard time with speech. She was a lot slower than the other kids her age and was hard to understand. It got considerablely better after age 2 and then at 3 we started her in speech therapy. It's helped but been slow in progress. If the doctor orders a hearing test and it turns out OK I would personally hold off on speech. The younger they are the harder time I think they have (at least between my kid and some friends kids). Also, it seems like after 3 you would know if there was a problem, or him just being stubborn. I would think speech would be more effective if they knew what they needed to work on.
I would go with your gut on this one. If his hearing is perfect, then maybe wait 6 more months and see if you want a therapy consult. Good luck! Each child is different and mom usually know what's best!

My sister and I both have boys that turned 2 in October (6 days apart). My son was my 3rd baby and was speaking complete 5-6 word sentences by 21 months. We believe he did so well because he was trying to keep up with big brother and sister. But my sister's little boy was her first child and he just started talking well in the past month or so. At Christmas he was still just saying 1 or 2 words at a time and they were the typical ma-ma, da-da, ball, etc. But by Valentines Day our boys were able to talk on the phone and sounded about the same. So yes, 6 weeks can make a huge difference. I know that one difference between myself and my sister's way of doing things is that I've always spoken to my children in my normal adult voice. But my sister uses a lot of baby talk with her boys. I don't think you should worry too much about it. I believe there are a lot of doctors that are over reacting to this stuff and trying too hard to make every child develop at the same times. First children are going to do things a little later than multiple children. It just makes sense. And no matter what any doctor says, you should just follow your mothering instincts. If you believe he's fine, then he probably is. Sounds like you are being a very good mother to check on this. Just keep up the good work and I'm sure your little boy will surprise you very soon. Good luck!!
A.

Trust your own instincts. People think pediatricians are geniuses but they aren't, they are just people. If he is the first child, it does seem a bit slow but my second son was the same way. Understood everything and rarely spoke until almost three then it was complete sentences. Yours may be an observer. Ignore the doctor. That's my opinion.

I don't know how anyone can tell if there is truly an issue & it's time to be concerned. But I do know that my now 2 1/2 year old boy said just a few words before his 2 yr birthday. Pretty much right when he turned 2 he started saying a TON of words & he now speaks in sentences. I think this is very common, but it also sounds very common that Drs. send children for testing / therapy at 2 if they don't say enough. My Dr. is more laid back & said he would be fine - and he is! Can't help solve your problem but hopefully this provides a little reassurance that he'll probably be ok.

I know what you are going through. My son did the same thing. He is now three and has been dianosed with autism. I am NOT saying your sonis autisic all I am saying is there might be something else going on in his head that we are unaware of. Getting him tested is not the end of the world. Would you rather not get him tested and find out later that he does have a problem or get him tested and get him the help he needs sooner rather than later? Like I said my son had the same problem and now while he does not verbally speak, my son is communicating with me through sign language. You might want to try that if nothing else works. Good Luck.

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