16 Month Old Isn't Speaking

Updated on October 29, 2007
M.C. asks from Palm Coast, FL
22 answers

Hi, I was just wondering if my 16 month old should be saying more. The only word he says that he actually knows what he's saying is mama. He says dada sometimes but not to his dad, just randomly. I have a three year old daughter who was saying quite a bit more at this age and I know all kids are different but I was wondering if I should be doing anything more to help him. I try to point out things to him and say what they are and I also talk to him a lot but he mostly is just still doing the baby babble. His own language. He also points a lot when he wants something instead of talking. I should also mention that my dughter talks enough for all of us so I don't know if that has anything to do with it. Am I worrying over nothing?

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So What Happened?

I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the great advice and to say that he is finally talking and has many new words. It seemed to happen within a week he just started saying all these new words. Saa for santa, ditty for kitty, pupup for puppy, nigh night, bye bye, hi (when he uses his play phone), tee for tree, dora, dada and mama. I just really started focusing on it and saying everything to him. He also understands a lot of words that he doesn't yet say. I'll tell him to get his blanky and he gets it or I'll ask where Rachel (his sister) is and he points to her. So happy to hear him talk and glad I was worrying over nothing. Thanks.

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J.G.

answers from New York on

My daughter was not speaking at this age either (she is now 2 1/2). Her pediatrician recommended an evaluation by Birth to Three (a state run agency for kids under the age of three who work with developmentally delayed children). Getting her evaluated was the best thing I could have done for my daughter. I also have a 4 year old who talks non-stop. I thought this had something to do with my younger daughters lack of speech. It did not. She now receives services 5 days a week from Birth to Three and is doing much better. Her peditrician also recommended that she get evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. Unfortunately, the waiting list is 6 months long. If you would like contact information for Birth to Three or the developmental pediatrician I would be happy to suppy it.

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J.S.

answers from Rochester on

I had this same problem with my now almost 3 year old and my now 16 mo old. My first daughter (5 yrs) could talk full sentences by her first birthday, but my second and third could barely say mama or dada. My 3 year old is finally catching up in the last year or so but dramatically in the last few weeks. I hope the same happens with the littlest one. She seems to be catching up faster. So dont worry itll all come in time!

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D.S.

answers from New York on

My 16 month old daughter is similar. She uses gestures for communication but not many words. She is starting to repeat words but not consistently. My doctor said not to worry and that her vocabulary should start to pick up around 18 months. Hope that helps. Good luck.

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L.P.

answers from New York on

Hi, I don't know if we are in the same area but Westchester has a very good early intervention program. My child was doing pretty much the same thing as yours until he was 2 years old and I wish I had gotten him involved sooner.

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T.K.

answers from Albany on

I had the same thing with my children. They are only 15 months apart. I questioned the Dr. on why he wasn't asking what my son could say (like he did my daughter.) His response was that, "I'm sure he isn't talking much." Once I got my daughter in pre-k, my son improved dramatically...just like the doctor said.
I hope this is the same for you. Good luck.

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J.G.

answers from New York on

Hi
Im in the same situation. My son is 17 months old and just says mamma and dadda. he points when he wants something, but thats about it. Let me tell u something.. My daughter will be 3 in Feb and she started talking after her 2nd Birthday now she can't shut up. I had gotten her evaluated when she was 18 months cause she also wasn't talking, but they told me she wasn't eligible cause she was fine. Now, im not so worried with my son. If u want i have the num for the Brooklyn speech therapist and they are free. You can also ask your doc if they have any recommendations. Good Luck!

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S.K.

answers from New York on

I wouldn't worry about it. My son is 18 months old and really just started talking about two weeks ago. We were so concerned we made an appointment for an early intervention program. By the time they could come for an evaluation, the word explosion had begun. In my opinion, boys are more likely to be late talkers than girls.

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N.L.

answers from Albany on

I had the same thing too with my son, who is 26 months now. Up until 18 months all he said was Dadda and a bunch of garble. Now I can't get him to be quiet! He says all sorts of things...some times things I don't want him to either! lol...
I asked a friend who is a speech therapist when he was young and she told me if by 24 mos there was still an issue with no more than 6 words, then pursue it with your pediatrician. But boys tend to take things in more and then when they are ready they let it all out, which was our case- but none the less I was so worried. So, all I can say is don't fret your son just might be taking it all in.
Also, Especially since he has an older sister - make sure she isn't answering for him, or he can't get a word in. This can prolong speaking if some on is doing it for him. So if you see that your 3 year old is answering for him, encourage her to "encourage her brother" to say it too, make it a game with her as the host so she doesn't feel slighted. Good Luck!

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C.B.

answers from New York on

Wow, M., you've gotten a lot of responses!

As with many other responders, I have had a similar exerience to your own. My son was barely able to form two word phrases at age 2 but is now very articulate at 2.5 yrs. I would add the following advice.

Avoid TV at all cost, kids do not learn language from TV, and in fact it has a negative effect on language aquisition and use. Also, talk to your son as often as possible, including giving a running narrative of what you are doing, as in "first I'm cracking the egg into a bowl, now I scramble it..." Acredelo and Goodwyn offer lots of good advice in their book Baby Minds, on ways to play with baby that help in this and other areas. These two women are highly educated researchers and in my mind this book really stands out!

Also, sign language may sound intimidating but is actually a lot of fun (Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk, by Linda Acredolo, Susan Goodwyn, Douglas Abrams). You should only start with a couple of words anyway. I taught signs to my son, thinking it wouldn't happen since I work full time, and I was the only one using them. Not only did he catch on, but he loved it! I stopped when he just outpaced me with his verbal vocabular.

All the best!

C.

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D.S.

answers from Albany on

As the other posters have said, there's no need to worry. There's always things that can be done. A lot of people will tell you: 1) boys are slower, 2) his sister may be doing some of his talking for him, and 3) most docs won't bat an eye until he's at least 2 if not 3.

That said, I agree with YOU. You are the mom, you know if there's some "thing" that doesn't feel right. My younger brother actually had a huge hearing loss and needed tubes for his middle ears to drain fluid out. If this had not been done he eventually would have gone deaf. My daughter has ALWAYS been able to say mama and once in a while da-ee. She has speech apraxia. She is 3 and still technically has no words. We hear a few but no one else would understand. At this point we've been in Early Intervention for just over a year.

You may ask your doctor for a referral or you can refer your child yourself. Early Intervention is thru the Dept. of Health in this state. It's totally free and hey, why not get the eval. just for your peace of mind? Also check his hearing and vision. Vision can affect everything since it's a primary form of learning.

Write me anytime!

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N.M.

answers from New York on

M.,
Please trust me when I tell you, you are worrying over nothing. The worse thing that can happen if he isn't speaking by 2 yrs old your dr. will have you consider eary intervention for speech.
My advice is when he points tell him to tell you what he wants. Yes he will babble but say the word the right way. he will catch on. Also if you give in when he points he just keep pointing cause he gets what he wants and thinks he doesn't need to speak.
I have been down this road and this is the advice i got from early intervention

I hope I hekped
N.

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R.A.

answers from Rochester on

I think it's normal. My son didn't really talk until right after his 2nd birthday. My daughter who is 18 mos now doesn't say much either. Funny how they let you now other ways! Good luck!

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P.M.

answers from New York on

That's very normal. My son is 22 months now, but at 16 months he only had a couple of words. By 18 months he had about a dozen, and at his 18 month check-up his paediatrician told me that's above average. They go through a couple of spurts, where they all of the sudden pick up a bunch of words. My son continued to pick up words here and there, and once he turned 21 months he not only said every single word he heard he also recognizes and reads the alphabet and counts in two languages. So you have nothing to worry about, he'll pick up the speech thing when he's ready.

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K.L.

answers from New York on

The only thing I can think of to try at home would be baby sign language (along with the verbal reinforcement you're already doing) -- since it's supposed to stimulate the same language centers in the brain as verbal speech. That way if he was responding to that you could have the feeling that language-wise he's doing OK and the speech part just needs to catch up... and also that you're doing an activity to develop his overall language skills, etc.

He's probably well within the normal range but in your shoes I would both try to think of what you can do at home and also see what your pediatrician thinks. (I have a 3 year old daughter too and a 13 month old son... who is actually saying a few words more than his sister did at that age. He is also signing a few words too, like dog and baby. On the big physical milestones he was way behind her, though, so you're right that they are all so different.)

We used the Signing Time videos (the first three are very slow paced and good for baby-viewing... after that they skew to an older child's taste) and also just signed a lot around the house. There are some websites where you can look up signs. We started with the basics like "more", "eat", and "Mommy" and went from there.

Good luck!

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M.M.

answers from Buffalo on

It is common for boys to take a little longer to speak. There is no need for concern. Once he turns 2 and still does not speak with a few words and small sentences then you may want to look into getting professional advice. But it doesn't mean there is something wrong with him. As long as he can understand what you say to him he is a normal 16 month old.

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K.H.

answers from Buffalo on

He IS speaking some...so don't be concerned. He is not incapable of speaking, just unwilling.

Late walkers don't mean they walk any less when they grow up.

Don't be concerned about the lack of words now.

Older siblings have a way of making the next born speak less...

Think about this...You are not giving the undevided attention the first born had. The first born is helping with communication for him in ways you don't realize. He doesn't need to communicate verbally as much as an only child does.

For instance...

If he wants a toy he can't reach. The older sister can sense his need before he has a chance to be verbal, and give her "big sister' assistance. Unlike her need to get your attention for everything at that age, he has no need to develop his vocal skills. He has a non verbal communication with her and his verbal communication with you will come along more as it is needed.

It is NOT abnormal...it is just not as obvious as other parents may describe. Some older siblings will answer for them, ask for things for them, tell mommy what he feels, wants, needs....it gives the older sibling a sense of importance in the family to be their subtle guardian. But, also delays their communication a little by being their voice.

No worries....
He will develop just fine at his own rate when he needs to...and you'll see, he will talk just a well as anyone else.

If you are overly concerned....start to teach both of them sign language. She can help teach him and make him sign her before helping him...Children can communicate thoughts long before the mouth can. Sign language is used in many day cares and preschools for toddlers.... Words like more, yes, no, want, please, thank you, hungry and thirsty. They can communicate much earlier than people realize. Toddler talk is not the same from family to family...but signing is universal.
Or
Give the big sister an important job....playing the game of 'what's this' and "who's that" all day....teaching him to say words.

Although it looks like a downfall....be happy. It most likely means she likes baby brother and is helping and babying him....not pinching him behind your back and plotting a way to make him disappear.

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Y.K.

answers from New York on

hi M., please dont worry at 16 mns my daughter could probably say 2-4 words, mostly Mama, by now- she's 21 mns, she can say at least 2-3 dozen. i was worried for a while, but i noticed by 18mns she was expressing her self more by saying more than pointing to an object. My nephew didn't say almost anything until 22 months, and now he's 24 months and all of the sudden he is talking pretty easily. YOur son might be just getting enough vocabulary and then he'll start speaking all of the sudden. also i heard from all my friends that their second child spoke much later than first.

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J.I.

answers from New York on

hi,well let me say,been there,lol,hes fine,,my son was doing the same thing i had 2 older boys and a daughter who was 4 wen he was born,now she talked so much she didnt no wen to shut up,he on the other hand was slower,,the doctor said cuz we was doing the talking for him,hed point to things and eaither me or my daughter would say wat he was trying to say,its natural to do that,plus girls are more advanced then boys,i have 3 boys and 1 girl,she did everything faster then the boys,,i wouldnt worry so much,but if ur not satisfied,just speak to your dr about it,,may i tell u my son was born with a cleft palate,so i thought that was the problem to but hes in speech snice the age of 2,dr said stop talking for him,i did,now many yrs later,hes non stop doing great,lol.well good luck to u,but im sure hell b ok,

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J.Q.

answers from Binghamton on

I have three children. My oldest who is a girl, spoke early. My other two are boys, one will be seven this week; he didn't start speaking until he was almost four. Now he can't stop talking. My little one is sixteen month old also, just like yours; he only says mama, dada and bye. I'm not worried because of my experience with my first son. In my family all the girls started talking at a young age. I have a neice also sixteen months old and she is a chatter box.
I don't concentrate on speech only, I look for other things that boys might do, like my son runs instead of walking or he climbs on to furnitures. I think that boys develope differently than girls. If it makes you feel better consult with a doctor. This is just my personal opinion.

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M.P.

answers from Albany on

As everyone else has said, I really wouldn't worry until he is older. However, have you tried to teach him any baby sign?? We taught my son a few simple signs (more, please, thank you, eat, drink, all done) just so he could communicate the really important things and he was much less frustrated (he was a first born with no older sibling to sense his needs!!) It has also been shown in studies that language pathways in the brain are inforced by using sign....just an interesting fact I found in Parents magazine. It reinforced that what I was already doing for my son was a good thing. (to be fair, my kids also have to know sign to communicate with a little boy I care for who has Down Syndrome, so I had dual motives!!)

If you need any help on how to find these signs or anything else, let me know at [email protected]____.com luck!!

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Q.F.

answers from New York on

if you're really worried, you can always talk to the dr. about it...but my daughter is 18 months old, and has been very advanced with everything, and to be completely honest with you, she wasn't really saying anything but dada and duck(a)until about 16 months...and if i would let her go off on her own, and watch her from a distance (without her knowing) i would catch her saying a few words here and there, in midst her talking in her own language. also she would say a word once, then not again for months (the dr. said that when they do that, it's because they've gotten the word, KNOW they are right in saying it, and what it is and means, and they don't feel that they NEED to say it again...until another time months down the line). now she's just about 19 months old, and she's got a list of about 40 words in her vocabulary, sometimes 2 word sentences (uh-oh, hi daddy, thank you) but you may not hear some of those words throughout the day/week, unless you listen to her when she thinks no one's really paying attention. try that, just sneak and listen to him playing by himself, you may hear more words then you think he knows. and always remember, they say that a child doesn't have to say the word perfect for it to be counted as a word they say. when she says thank you, it's more like dank ooow, or bird is bir, blue is boo, bottle was bobble, so now she just says baba. understanding them seldom is easy unless you really pay close attention, or are used to it. growing up i was the one that had to translate my brother (5 yrs young) to everyone...and that was until he was about 7,8 yrs old. if you can get your older one to help...maybe ask her what he's trying to say. you said she talks alot, i'm sure she could understand him, and let you know what he's sayin (even if just some of the time). be patient, and like i said in the beginning, if you have any worries, just talk to his dr. about it. with the way things are now, you can never be too careful. good luck.

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