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Seeking Advice W/19 Month Old Grandson Who Doesn't Respond to Name

My grandson is a very bright, affectionate little boy. Recently I've noticed he does not respond to his name. At first we thought it was because he had so many nicknames that maybe he didn't recognize his name so we stopped calling to him by his silly little names and started using only his name. He does not turn to look at you. I can shout his name and he goes about his business as if nothing. I don't think there is a hearing problem because he can be in a different room and when "Baby First TV" is turned on, he will come running to see it. He also likes to touch/push at the tv. When he does and we say "NO. NO TOUCHING TV" he will turn and walk away from it so I believe he can hear. Also need to mention that he is not speaking words at all. He makes lots of noises (baby babble) but no real words. Any advice from anyone? His mom spoke 2-3 word sentences by 12 months. I heard boys are slower, but this slow? Any help I can get I would appreciate. Thank you moms, in advance.

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I think this is fairly normal for a 19 month old boy. My daughter was talking sentences also very early, but I have a lot of friends with boys and the boys are way behind verbally. Eventually boys catch up and my friends son also had the not listening to his name issue, but by 2 1/2 it has gotten a lot better.

I would recommend you talk to his pediatrician first to screen for developmental progress, then get a speech and language evaluation so if intervention is required it starts as early as possible for the best outcome.

A little about me: I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Palo Alto with two children 19 yo boy and 12 yo girl and a husband of 21 yeas.

I would consider taking him in for a hearing evaluation any way. My daughter had 30-40% hearing loss that came on gradually and she could hear some things, but not others because of the decibal level and/or pitch. She was also reading lips, so if he was not already familiar with his name, he may not be able to recognize it if he is having trouble hearing. She ended up having tubes put in and her adenoids out and her vocabulary and behavior has improved SO much. It was scary and tough to watch her come out of anesthesia, but it has been the best thing.

You do not want his speech to be delayed much longer if and if it is due to a hearing issue, it can be corrected and is better done sooner than later.

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It could be he has a mild hearing loss in certain frequencies only, which might be why he doesn't hear his name, but does hear/recognize the theme music for the TV show. Maybe one of the nicknames, or the combination of high/low sounds you make while saying his name would be easier for him to catch.
Hearing loss can be deceptive because it is not all-or-nothing like many think. If they are looking at you and understanding, it may be that he is actually lipreading, not hearing. My husband was tested for hearing loss at 3yo but they tested him while he was watching them and he "passed" the hearing test. It wasn't until he was re-tested at 5yo that they found out he did indeed have a hearing loss. He went on to become a veterinarian, so it is in no way an handicap, it just needs a different way of doing things.
I strongly recommend the Signing Time series for *anyone* interested in learning or benefiting from signs, and sign language DOES benefit EVERYONE. It is a very fun show for kids too.

Anyway back to the hearing thing - different sounds may be at the same volume level but some will be heard, not others. For example, I cannot hear consonants such as S, Z, T, K, etc but I do hear vowel sounds. So I hear, but not in the same way you do. I hear, but without understanding, and my listening skills consist of matching what I hear with what I know (which is difficult for a little kid.)

And while it could be a hearing issue of some kind (there are some auditory processing disorders that have nothing to do with how much you hear but how you process what you hear) or autism or other developmental issues, it also very well may be simply that he doesnt "get it" that he is supposed to respond when you call his name???

I highly recommend you check out Signing Time (it is way better than anything else on sign language I have seen out there) and incorporate that in your daily conversations. It does greatly reduce the "terrible two's" because toddlers are more able to move their hands than manipulate their tongues to get certain sounds to say certain words at 2 & 3 yo. I didn't get any tantrums from my son until he reached his 3's when he decided he could handle more independence than I was willing to let him (as in, NO you cannot use the knife!) but he was able to tell me what he wanted which eliminates so much frustration from a little kid.

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We had the same problem with one of our girls. The pediatrician also noticed that she wasn't making appropriate eye contact. We then took her to a developmental pediatrician who assessed her and felt she was many months behind in use of language. We have been taking her for language and occupational therapy for one year now and have seen a remarkable difference.

I would suggest making an appointment with a developmental pediatrician (these appts take months to get so book one now). They can help figure out solutions. And, if, by the time the appt time comes around your grandson is speaking more appropriately, the appt can just serve as a check on miletones.

1 mom found this helpful

If you're worried you should take him to get looked at. What does his pediatrician think? My oldest son was very late with his talking as was my little brother. My son at his 2 year appointment said 2 words, mama and dada. He understood everything though, when we would tell him something to do he would go and do it. I would suggest teaching him sign language to help him communicate you will be amazed at how fast they pick it up my son knew well over 50 signs and could tell us everything that he needed so there was no melt downs. Then as he gradually began to talk the signs faded out and we did the same thing with my other two although they spoke at a much earlier age. www.signingtime.com is a great resource. My 11 month old already knows how to tell me when she wants to eat, water, milk, and finished, as well as shakes her head yes and no. She is picking it up faster than the boys. My oldest was the one who benifited the most he could sign all his colors, truck, action words like walk, jump,more, eat, foods like grapes, milk, cracker, cereal, pizza, and much much more. Then as he began to be able to talk he would get so excited when he could actually say the word, grandma was his favorite at almost 3. He shows no signs now that he was even behind, infact by 4 he was saying everything even some big words and using them appropriately it was like he skiped baby talk. My 2nd spoke earlier but did the baby talk thing.
Anyway didn't mean for this to be so long. Hope it helps.

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I know exactly what you mean. The same thing is going on in my house. My son is 20 mos and has no "real" words. He babbles for most part and can occasionally say "mom, dad, and hi" but not on a consistant basis. (My son has benign axial hydroencehilitis - which is basically excess fluid in the area between the brain and skull) Although the doctors arent sure if his condition has a direct link to him not talking, they told me not to be alarmed and that some kids are not "talkers". I had a second and third opinion as well an autism specialist check him and they all say he is fine. He has had 5 hearing tests in the last year and each test is better than the last. He can comprehend what we tell him (turn off the tv, sit down, open the door etc...)
I suggest you call VMRC (Valley Mountain Regional Center) they are a group that can assist you with getting your grandson tested (free of charge) and can help you with therapies etc... Currently my son has an infant teacher who comes to the house once a week to work with him with sign language and other developemental skills and she is AMAZING!! My son has 6 signs he uses on a daily basis (please, more, help etc) He also has speech therapy once a month and they do more intense sounds and lay out the plan for the teacher to work with him on during the week.
I hope this helps. Keep your head up but follow your instinct and get him tested. If nothing else, it will ease your heart. If you need assistance contacting your local VMRC let me know and I will give you the phone info for mine and I'm sure they could direct you. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My son was the exact same way. He didn't speak until 3 yrs. You can call your local school district and they will refer you to you County's dept. who handles this kind of thing. What we did was have someone come to our house and work with him on a weekly basis. They did a hearing test and he was fine, but due to the delay in his speak he qualified for their program. We didn't have to pay anything for the services. When he turned 3 the school district took over and he went to a sepcial preschool for speech delay where he got speech therapy. We held him out a year in Kindergarten so he just started Kindergarten this year at the age of 6. He is still in speech therapy and is doing great.

We also bought Sign Language DVD's from www.mybabycantalk.com That helped tremendously. He was my first child and I was always anticipating what he wanted and he never had to ask for anything. He had no reason to speak and I honestly believe that was the cause of the speech delay. He also use to throw extreme tanturums when we didn't know what he wanted and with the baby sign language he was able to communicate to us which caused him less stress. It was really hard not having him talk and very stressful for him as a child.

My 2nd son was only a baby when we started the baby sign language and by 18 months he was speaking full sentences and very advanced in his language skills. He is 4 and trying to read.

Both my kids picked up the sign language after only a few times watching the dvd and it was a lifesaver, esp. for my oldest. We had such a hard time with him. I wished I could have known about it when he was a baby.

Contact your school district and they will help get you the services that you need.

1 mom found this helpful

Grettings M.: It is so nice to see another Grandmother,at this sight. I am the mother of 5, been a foster mother, and am the proud Grandmother of 12 ( partly from my foster children that I am blessed to have our lives. My children range in age of 22-43.
Having worked with children for 40 years I can tell you from what I know--girls are just the same as boys in most areas. Only a very few areas have I found that one sex is quicker than another in so it all balances out. So give your little one time-- he may have others doing his talking for him.
I have one child that when he read you question-- actually thought it might have been me describing him!!!
Our son, didn't learn to speak true words until his 5th surgery on his ears for tubes & he was almost 5 years old. This guy spent years with ear infections. He did not speak sentences until he was able to learn sign language and then put the word with the sign. Later, when he wouldn't respond to us but did respond to things that interested him--sharks, whales, turtles etc it was in a bable that only his older brother truely understood. So the older sibling did his talking for him until he was 3. Our son, we learned much later has Aspberger's Syndrome, which is a form of Autism. He didn't respond to his name either until a friend that was learning sign language, taught him his name,how to count and his colors all in Sign!!! It was the most amazing moment to see him respond and pick it up so fast. Things were going on in his head but he couldn't get it across to us. The school distric, didn't catch on to what the problem was so they just wanted to put him in special ed. preschool because he was language delayed. Our doctors, loved this child so much but really felt that he was delayed because of the ear infections so it was years before we got to the heart of the problem.
My grandaughter's pre-school started teaching sign when she waas 2 and it has been wonderful for her to use it. I know that even Seseme street teaches it now. So give it a try and see if that will open up a world to your little one. Talk to the doctors and make sure that there is nothing else going on that might prevent language developement.
As an added note my son tells me that he thought his nick name was his name, so I am glad we stopped that when he was young. My older children's friends all called him "BUDDY".
This young man now at 22 attends Jr. College, and is a hit at his favorite hobby. He still doesn't respond well at times but we have a way of getting his attention so that he is looking at us when we speak to him. That is another trick to try-- making sure that you have the child's full facial attention when talking with him. I am sure you are reading with him as that is great way to develope language skills. But you little one is little and will do great with time.
I have always considered parenthood the greatest adventure ride I have ever been on. My children either birth or foster, ever gave me a dull moment. But I am proud of them all. Good Luck & I hope that you find what will help your little one. Nana G

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Hello M.,

Your description of your grandson is very similar to how my grandson was at that age. Early intervention is important. I would encourage you to contact North Bay Regional Center
Phone: ###-###-####
They will evaluate him and if he needs speech therapy or other services North Bay Regional will help you/your daughter with that. Speech services for your grandson are provided at no cost to your daughter. There are a lot of services available in the Santa Rosa area to help him. Please do not delay and call them ASAP.
My grandson received services from North Bay Regional till the age of three. Then it becomes the responsibility of the school district to provide services. When we started getting services it was for sensory issues and speech delays.
Another place you can call is ELI (Early Learning Institute)###-###-####. They will also do free evaluations.
We are very grateful to ELI for all the help they provided for us. The teachers are super over there.

DVD's that our grandson really like and helps with speech are the Baby Bumblebee DVD's. Look on Amazon, they got great reviews.

Please don't delay in getting him evaluated. It is so important to catch any delays as early as possible. I know a lot of people say boys are slower, and they are, but you know your grandson and you seem to have concerns that needs to be addressed.

Another SR grandma

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Hi M. I don't want to alarm you but this is one very prominent symptom of Autism so I think it should be brought to his drs attention. Does he make eye contact when you speak to him. You can probably google autism symptoms. It may be nothing but never hurts to have him checked out.

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I'd take him to the pediatrician to get a hearing test. My son was clinically deaf until he had ear tubes inserted at 20 months of age. He had persistant fluid in the ear canals -- not ear infections though. He DID speak, but we noticed at his 12 month check-up that he didn't turn his head when the doctor said his name from behind him. In our case, my son had learned to read lips because I had unknowingly always looked directly in his face when speaking to him. The earlier you intervene, the better the chances to make up any deficit that may exist. He also, would come running from another room if I turned on Wishbone (a PBS show that he loved) - my husband said he probably felt and recognized the sound vibrations from the speakers through the floor.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,

I see you think he doesn’t have an earring problem, but as you describe it, it sounds so similar to what my son was having at the same age. He could hear music type of sounds easier than words. I want to say that my son's ears where not fully developed yet which caused him to not hear word sounds clearly. After minor surgery of inputting ear tubes he start talking with help of speech therapists. Maybe you should have his ears checked by an ENT specialist soon to see what is the problem for the delay in his speech.

Best Regards,

Absolutely no doubt, ask your pediatrician for a referral for a hearing test. Try Dr. Arnstein at Los Gatos Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic. My daughter appeared to hear fine and was meeting her talking milestones, had enough words and could string them together but she just didn't talk much and when she did, she was difficult to understand. This was at 2 yrs, we were referred and she had a 35% hearing loss in both ears! She needed tubes to help with correct drainage and her hearing became normal and she is talking up a storm. What a difference. So, check that first. Also, you can call your local school district and request a referral for speech therapy to get an assessment and treatment (for free) if needed.

Good luck!

Hi M.,

I know you've received plenty of responses to your question. Unfortunately I know all too well about delayed talking. Both my boys were late talkers. My pediatrician even recommended speech therapy for them. I was never too worried about them though, because I knew they understood what I was saying, (even complex directions like "go to the room and get red shirt") and be able to follow the directions. I did go to the initial pathology appts with both boys for 2 reasons. First, I didn't want my pediatrician to think I didn't care about her suggestions and the other because they check their hearing when we went in. The one most important thing I want to tell you is that there is no 'right time' for kids to start talking. They tend to do things and reach milestones at their own time. In the cases with both my boys, within a week of scheduling the initial appts with the speech pathologist, they began to talk...just like magic! It's like they tried to prove me wrong. This just happened with my second son within the last 3 weeks and he is now putting together 3-4 word sentences!

All I really want to say is that it will happen. Try not to worry too much and definitely try not to compare your grandson to any other child. If I read your request right, he seems to understand you, just chooses not to speak. Things will happen at his pace. That's what happened with both my boys. Neither one spoke until after 2 years...then poof...now they won't stop!!

Good luck and try to relax and just enjoy this time together.


Ahh this sounds so familiar. When my son was that age bith myself and my mother in law started to worry because he hadn't said even 1 word yet. My 2 daughter were both speaking in complete sentences by their 1st birthdays and never stopped. I recommend a couple of things,
1.For your own concern talk to your doctor. He will most likely do a few things and tell you not to worry or give you some suggestions on how to get him to respond.
2. Make him ask for things. He may not be able to say I want the banana, but he can using body language, not tears let you know what her wants. (some kids do real well with sign language. I didn't know much so this wasn't a great option for me)
3. JUST WAIT. before you know it he will be like my 5 year old talking your ear off and you will wonder what you will ever concerned about.

My son is still more observant and less likely to talk than his sisters. He only talks when he has something on his mind and then watch out because he can go over that topic for hours. I recommend the MD first because you do want to rule out anything that could be causing a problem and then just enjoy your grandson.

Go online and look up the symptoms of Autism. If he has many of them- it's time to get evaluated.

Ear problems during infancy- especially months of clogged ears and ear infections, can cause speech delays and/or issues. Does it seem like he has a lot of colds/congestion?
Is he irritable alot? he could have blocked hearing from that. Reducing milk products can decrease mucus buildup in the ears/throat/nose and lungs.

My question would be "does he respond to his nicknames"?
It seems like you have had lot's of experience with raising kids.
I have 5 children myself ranging from 30 years old down to 13 .
I do intuitive healing but without having his name and some more info it is a little hard for me to tune into him.
I would play with him more, like making music, talking to him and playing games where he needs to responds to see if it is his hearing. You need to rule out the possibility that he understand with his intuition instead of hearing. Or just take him and have his hearing checked out to be sure that this is not it.
If that is established and hearing if fine than he might just not identify with his name.
This might be an incarnation issue. My 13 year old taught me a lot about that, she had all kind of problems when she was little and after a long time of not knowing I figured out that her behaviour was based on that and we where able to heal it, she changed after that. I do not know if you believe in these things, for me it was certainly new, but her symptoms changed drastically. My process with my daughter opened many new doors for me and I learned about things I never thought I would.
You know autism comes to mind also, kids with autism can show symptoms like that.
Of course I do not know enough about your grandson but this is something to look into.
Did he get vaccinated, there is a relation ship between autism and the heavy metal of the vaccines. 1 out of 150 children these days have some form of autism related to the vaccines?
good luck

Hello M., I have worked with toddlers for the past 10 years, I have 4 children (3 girls and 1 boy). I would say:
1. have his ears evaluated for sure, you want to rule out an hearing problem.
2. read "To train up a child" by Debi Pearl at nogreaterjoy.org. It has some controversial points but it has some great principles on training a child to obey. Keep what makes sense to you and disregard the rest.
He needs to be trained to respond the first time, it does not come naturally most of the time.
This book changed my life,and my kids are well behaved and obedient (most of the time:) it is great.
Hope it helps.

I agree with the mom who asked you if he makes eye contact. If NOT, he should be assessed.
A lot of kids may be a bit delayed in speech, and be interested in pushing buttons, or not answer when called. If he regularly avoids eye contact, that is a big red flag.
In any case, try discussing this with the pediatrician, and also trying to motivate him to answer his name by creating an association with his name (meaning when he hears his name and responds, something good or interesting happens. Someone suggested that having so many adults in the house may have lessened his need for attention, which sounds very plausible to me.

I think this is fairly normal for a 19 month old boy. My daughter was talking sentences also very early, but I have a lot of friends with boys and the boys are way behind verbally. Eventually boys catch up and my friends son also had the not listening to his name issue, but by 2 1/2 it has gotten a lot better.

You should take him to the pediatrician because he might have some slight autistic symptoms. Better to rule it out then not.

My son did not speak until he went to speech therapy. He had all of three words by the time he was 18 months old.
It wasn't until he was 11 we learned he has ADD and a processing disorder. He can only learn visually, other wise he does not get what we mean. All it took was the right doctor to tell us what was going on. I would ask your doctor for a hearing test to start.
W. M

I would recommend you talk to his pediatrician first to screen for developmental progress, then get a speech and language evaluation so if intervention is required it starts as early as possible for the best outcome.

A little about me: I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Palo Alto with two children 19 yo boy and 12 yo girl and a husband of 21 yeas.


You can call your local school district and ask to have him evaluated for early intervention. They can assess him to see where he falls in the development stage. I dont' think it is totally out of the norm for a 19 month old not to talk. My daughter who is not 3 barely talked when she was 21 months old. I remember my family coming out for Christmas and they were concerend because she wasn't talking much. With in a few weeks she started talking and hasn't quit yet :-).

I would consider taking him in for a hearing evaluation any way. My daughter had 30-40% hearing loss that came on gradually and she could hear some things, but not others because of the decibal level and/or pitch. She was also reading lips, so if he was not already familiar with his name, he may not be able to recognize it if he is having trouble hearing. She ended up having tubes put in and her adenoids out and her vocabulary and behavior has improved SO much. It was scary and tough to watch her come out of anesthesia, but it has been the best thing.

You do not want his speech to be delayed much longer if and if it is due to a hearing issue, it can be corrected and is better done sooner than later.

One thing that could be a factor is simply the fact that he and his mother are living in your household. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with them living with you, but sometimes having the 'extra' adults in a home will cause a child's development to be different. For some kids it would mean they talk earlier and for others it might be that they don't feel the need to talk because adults are seeing their needs and responding too quickly.
I agree with what most of the respondents have said about talking with his pediatrician to be sure this isn't a more serious issue, but do look carefully at the patterns of communication you are using and see if you detect any areas where you may need to change the way you talk to and respond to him.

A couple of specific things I would suggest you look at... how much are you all reading with him? Do you spend a lot of time sitting with him and having 'conversations'? I know it doesn't seem much like a conversation to you if he's not talking, but even his babbling is a response and by you talking with him it may help him to understand that he needs to begin to communicate back verbally. I like the idea of the family meal as a place for excellent conversations. You can be teaching him table manners, and all sorts of things by using conversation with him at the table. Take walks and talk about what you see as you go along. Ask questions, point out interesting things, and do be sure to stop and enjoy whenever he shows a special interest in something. My husband is currently out on a walk with our two little daycare boys (2 1/2 and almost 2 years old) and I know he's going to have to stop at every storm drain so they can marvel at the water and whatever they see down below the grates. He's also going to have to stop to look with them at every truck or bus that goes by and they will discuss those... what kind of vehicle, the color, what the vehicle is for, who's driving it, etc. Whether the boys are doing the talking or whether my husband is doing all of it, they are learning all the time on these walks. Oh, they also have to pick up leaves, sticks and all sorts of things as they go, and each of those provides something else they can talk about. These are just simple things that add up to what some experts like to refer to as "the teachable moment".
If you are already doing all this sort of thing, then I'd say you definitely need to have the boy checked out. But what you've said about his responses to you tends to make me think he's like a cousin of mine who didn't talk until she was four and when asked about it after she started talking she told her parents "I just didn't have anything to talk about before".

I would be talking with his pediatrician. Yes boys can talk later and some kids don't talk until very late and there is nothing wrong, but why take that chance? The pediatrician's office will know if he needs to be referred to early intervention for an assessment. Specifically ask the pediatrician if it's time for an early intervention assessment. I say that because some peds will say to go through your insurance first, which you don't have to do with early intervention. The school district will have an early intervention team that can do any assessment. Even though he's not school aged, the school district is still responsible for little ones that need services. I have 6 special needs kids, so I do know how this all works.

Not sure where you are but he needs assessment with the Regional Center in CA. Each region has a Regional Center. You also need to speak with his pediatrician. Language delay is a huge red flag...A.

My advice is trust your instincts and have this problem looked into. Yes, boys tend to be slower in speaking than girls but it doesn't hurt to have the problem investigated. Have your grandson's parents mention this to his Pediatrician. Have his ears examined. Audiology testing also doesn't hurt either. Other diagnosis can also be investigated.

I had a child that didn't speak until nearly 3 who had some hearing/ear issues. In the end, he ended up being able to talk in sentences within weeks of sounding words and has more to say since than anyone could imagine. However, I had another one that spoke at 1 1/2 but had severe ear issues that only showed in subtle ways. He could hear but not always. It was by pure attention to detail on my part and neverending doubt to uncover the real problem that led to results and in the long run saved more than just his speech and hearing. All is well now but I can't say enough enough about persistence and discovery to get to the right place.

Best of luck in uncovering the mystery behind his non-response. I know of grandparents that were able to help their grandchildren get correctly diagnosed with seizures, ear problems, etc. It's so great you are paying attention to these small details. Whether they mean anything or not, it's good to know so as to not miss anything. All of your observations deserve to be investigated further.

Years ago my friend's daughter rarely said a word. Her doctor said she didn't need to speak as her needs were given to her in advance. She had to reason to speak. Some kids I have cared for didn't speak munch and then spoke in sentences. A couple went to speech classes about two years old. Do you play games with him? Like hiding things in one of those shape shorters. Do you ask him questions, read books to him, sing songs to him, etc.? Reading books is the best way for a young one to learn words by picking picture books. What animal is this? What does the cow say? Invovle him in language.

Hi M.,

I can understand your concern about this type of behaviour.

I see many children's behaviour change drastically, for the better, with dietary changes. Certain foods can cause physical symptoms or behavioural changes in kids and adults. This is a great article to give you a brief summary of food sensitivities: http://www.healingwithnutrition.com/adisease/add-adhd/add...

I hope this info helps!

L. Vachani

Certified Nutrition Consultant

How does he communicate? Does he point to things that he wants, or does he take your hand and direct it to what he wants? Pointing is the more typical development.

Contact Parents Helping Parents in San Jose. www.php.com

School districts start providing services for kids at age 3. There are some early start programs for younger kids, but I think I heard some of them have been affected by the state budget cuts.

Early Intervention is so important. Go for it!

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