12 answers

My 20 Month Old Doesn't Talk. How Can I Help Him?

hi there! my 20 month old son doesn't really talk very much. he says mama and dada very regularly, but not much else. about a month ago he went through a period of saying loads of things, all of them with an 'sh' sound to them like wash, brush, splash, and fish. but hasn't said old words or new words in a while. but he babbles all the time! is this normal? is he saying things and i just don't understand? what can i do to help him advance his speech? the books i've read say that at 20 months he should have a vocabulary of 50 words and by 2 he should say 150 words. he is so smart otherwise, and understands what i say and usually does what he is told. am i worring needlessly? it seems like the other kids his age at the playgroup we attend are talking much, much more. but it seems like they are either girls, or have older siblings. what do you think? any opinions and advise are welcome! thanks so much!

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Featured Answers

Hi S.,
All children are different. The guidelines are just guidelines.

If you're looking for something to aid in communication, try "Baby Signs" by Dr. Acredolo. It's a great book. This book does a great job of explaining language development and the transition from signs to words. Basically, toddlers' brains are ready to talk to us before their tongues and mouths are. Both of my kids did baby signs first and are excellent talkers today.

Good luck!

More Answers

Never use the "c" word. Compare. He is his own person and will do his own thing in his own time. You are worrying needlessly. Let the pediatrician be aware of his progress at your regular visits and if it is still an issue in school, they will assist. He sounds very content and loved. No pressure or feelings of inadequacy from mom and dad is what you need to concentrate on.
One of my sons didn't speak a word, except to the family dog for what felt like years. But of course, he started school and became a little boy instead of a puppy. He loved his best friend the dog and so language was not that important to him at that stage. He did fine, just different than other boys and girls his age during his pre-school years. I worried needlessly, because he is so happy in his life and well adjusted. And yes, he has 2 dogs and is living the good life at 25.

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't worry to much about it, truly - and know that boys speech is often quite a bit behind those of the girls and other children with siblings until they reach preschool. As long as you don't notice any other deficits in your child's behavior or milestones, he is fine. Just like walking and potty training, children do everything in their own time, regardless of how much we want them to reach those milestones. The fact that he has and uses some words pretty much rules out issues like autism - have you every had his hearing checked? You might want to take a trip to the ped just to have his ears checked to rule that out too.
My 28 month old daughter was always very advanced in everything for her age - except walking. This child did not take her first steps until she was 17 months old, which, as a special education teacher, freaked me out to no end. But the ped assured me that it would happen when she was ready - and gosh darn it if she didn't stand up and just walk like she had been doing it forever. No stumbling or falling or "learning" - it was as if she had known all along! From that day on, she never crawled again, just like that.
He'll surprise you with a full on gramatically correct sentences one of these days and then you'll know what I mean! If it makes you feel better, talk to your ped about it and see if he/she recommends anything. In the meanwhile, the BEST thing you can do to encourage your child to speak is to READ READ READ and talk to him about everything. What you are doing, where are you going - describe everything in detail with him when you talk, and ask him questions that can be answered simply. If he does not answer them himself, you answer your own question.... just expose him to all the language you can.

1 mom found this helpful

Most likely he is taking his own time to do things. My son went through periods of talking and then not sayong much also and now he is three and talks nonstop. But you could get your pediatrician to give you a referral for a speech evaluation. You will have to get your insurance to approve it. If your insurance does not approve, call your local school district and see who does their birth to three evaluation program.

Hi S.-

My daughter did not start talking much until after 24 months. She is now 30 months and talks in sentences. It all comes little by little. Talk to your baby using a lot of "big people" words. Stay away from baby words like "birdie". I also recommended describing things as you give them to your baby. For example: Here is your yellow toothbrush, or your purple cup. The more descriptive words you use, the better. Good luck!

Hi S.,
All children are different. The guidelines are just guidelines.

If you're looking for something to aid in communication, try "Baby Signs" by Dr. Acredolo. It's a great book. This book does a great job of explaining language development and the transition from signs to words. Basically, toddlers' brains are ready to talk to us before their tongues and mouths are. Both of my kids did baby signs first and are excellent talkers today.

Good luck!

Typically, speech evaluations are not done until age 2. Things to keep in mind: has he had a history of ear infections or chronic congestion? Sometimes there can be fluid in the ear - enough to distort hearing- but not enough to cause infection. Also, if he was a preemie or had a medical/health issue to cause a delay in development. Lastly, many times moms become so in tune with their little one that they anticipate their needs so much, that the little ones do not NEED to talk. Think about it - I would not go to work if I still got a pay check. Try waiting for him to try to say a word or word approximation. Boys are slower at development than girls. However, don't wait too long if he does not start to develop words over the next 4-6 months. But don't worry, if at age 3, he is behind, the school district is responsible for assessing him and providing him services if he needs them - for free.

Best wishes to you and yours. :)

Try not to worry! Every child is different. With my first child, she spoke in full sentences and had a huge vocabulary by age 1. Then my second child came along and I was panic stricken when all she could say at that age were "mama" and "dada." But now that she is almost 3, her speech and vocabulary are completely normal for her age.

When I asked her pediatrician at 18 months why she was "late" in developing her language skills, he said that he would not really worry about anything until she reached 2 years, since lots of kids don't say much until then. He also advised me to keep a notebook and write down all of the words that I heard her saying throughout the day. Once I started doing that, I realized that she was saying more words than I thought (although the words were not clearly spoken). My mom suggested to me that I sit in front of the mirror with her for a few minutes a day and say words and then have her repeat them back to me - that helped because she could see how her mouth should form the words.

When I mentioned the above to my grandmother, she informed me that my father did not say anything until he turned 3. There was nothing wrong with him, he just didn't have anything he wanted to say (and he had 3 older siblings who would rush to give him toys, food, etc without him having to ask). My dad turned out to be one of the most intelligent guys I know, he's just quiet.

So... there's a WIDE range of normal. Give him time! If he's babbling, he's on his way to talking.

Hi there-
24 months seemed to be the magic age for my son, once he was 2 he went crazy with new words, I wouldn't worry and give him 6 months or so, he could just be taking it all in for now.

It's sounds like you're probably doing all the things you can do because he understands everything. Make sure he is around other kids around his age, sing songs, talk a lot and read. He'll talk when he's ready. My niece waited until she was nearly 3 to talk and when she did it was full sentences. She is still a perfectionist. My son went through the same thing as yours when he was learning to talk. Saying a lot of words then seemingly forgetting words that he had learned for a couple of weeks or months. I was worried too. He is 26 months now and doing great. I realize I was worrying needlessly. Just take it easy and enjoy!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! my daughter is 20 months also, and it seems to me that she grunts when she talks. Its not even babling she hems and haws over things. She says mama but she calls everyone mama lol so sometimes im like ugh. ive gotten pretty good at interpreting monkey like grunting sounds myself. i think its because i live with my mom and my younger brother and sisters live here and they pretty much cater to her every need. she doesnt have to talk to get her point accross, people just give it to her. im trying now to get her to talk by saying things and having her repeat them, they dont usually sound right, but she doest try. when shes done eating i make her say all done, or i want down, and i dont let her out tell she says them. I hope it helps to know that ur not alone, because after reading this i sure do feel better. Good luck!!

Hi S.,

I'm a 64 year-old mom who has worked in S.F. counties daycare systems and my own daycare for infants and then still found the energy to have my boy at 45. Just so you know where I'm coming from (lotsa wonderful babies, of all kinds and parents to match) Parent child communications is a specialty of mine.

I just want to say that you are doing the right thing. You are a loving concerned mom. Please don't worry; boys do internalize their emotional responses often and store up ideas and pictures in their minds before they use the language part of their brains and marvelous minds. Each and every child is different; your son speaks more often,at his age, than some very intelligent and wonderful young ones I've seen grow from birth to manhood.
I was particularly pleased to imagine him saying all those "sh' words! Isn't that great? It shows how he is categorizing by means of tactile information with his sense of touch in his mouth. Sometimes little guys make up words and as you suggested we don't know what they mean! I knew a little boy whose parents and friends, including an older sister spoke many languages. He had a hard time with language and was much more into physical exploration pouring water and stacking things just like a little student of life. For a while when he was two and a half he gave up trying to say all those different words people were using and made up a word for milk. "Flortch." he'd say pointing to it when his mom was puzzled. It was really a very smart move. he drew attention to the fact that he felt everybody else was just making up words as they pleased, so why shouldn't he?!

Please don't pay much attention to those books. Comparisons always make us feel defeated in one way or another. If we match what they say is ok, we feel dependent on their approval. It we don't match we feel inferior. Just read those books with a special hat. I call it the expert hat. I always stop and think, "Now wait! I'm the expert on me and my child." before I take in more than I should of anyone else's opinion. No matter how scientific and perfect the study none of us can second guess the individual .

The way I could tell you are a loving mom is how you said you know he understands you and does what you ask him to. This shows he loves and trusts you and wants to please you. One of the ways you can give yourselves the gift of a long happy relationship is to show him that you're content with who he is and think he's perfect the way he is. Holding your child and showing him things silently, enjoying looking at and touching things like sand and toys and natural items, flowers,feathers, even if he takes them apart, will create a silent friendship between you the way it does when two old friends sit quietly enjoying nature together.

Remember boys excel at language systems and reading only when they have reached 10 or 12 years of age. He will be pushed too soon to start using language in ways that are difficult for all little kids. Don't add feelings of worry to that task. For now he is safe at home with you being signaled in all ways that he is wonderful. Clearly he is storing verbal information. You don't have to worry about that. There may soon come a day when you have to ask him to stop talking for a moment; you'll probably get a laugh out of that time.

Much love to you and yours Andrea

No big deal. I have a 27 month old son who doesn't speak any English (except if he's singing along with the Wiggles he'll sing a couple of English words), but he does babble all the time. We call it Jadoneze (his name is Jadon). I know it can be a bit nerve wracking. My son is around children his own age at church several times a week, all of them speak except him. When I hear one year olds speaking in sentences I go through a period of trying to "make him talk". But its just not him. I know he'll grow up way too soon, so for now I just enjoy the time he's in.

My younger brother didn't speak until after he turned 3. He's one of the smartest people I know. It has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence, just different kids. I remember watching my grandparents try to make my brother talk by withholding food to make him say "eat". It didn't work. All it did was make him cry and make everyone else miserable. He started talking when he was ready, just like kids potty train when they are ready.

Enjoy this time with your son.

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