16 Month Old Not Talking

Updated on April 11, 2008
J.P. asks from Deerfield, IL
12 answers

My son is 16 months old and is not saying any words. At the 15 mo. appt., the doctor referred us to an audiologist & his hearing is fine. Now the doctor has referred us to NSSED Early Intervention & I'll hear back from them. My son communicates with sign language, points and makes noises & understands directions, but doesn't say anything, except mama and dada. Has anyone else had a late-talker? Any advice?

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So What Happened?

Thank you to all the moms and grandmas that responded and reassured me. I'm sorry this update comes late - It's been a few months. I did call Early Intervention right away when my doctor recommended, because I felt it can only help. The therapists said that he is well-developed in all areas except "expressive language" - where he is severely delayed - enough to qualify for services. His receptive language is excellent & the therapists seemed to think he was really fine.

It took three months to get the evaluation and then the services lined up. My son is now past 18 months and he is still not talking. He uses his signs fluently and I'm so glad I taught them to him. I do NOT think they are the cause for his speech delay (as my mom, aunts and cousins have opined!). We are starting speech therapy through Early Intervention next week. I also took a lot of advice that I received about singing to him and talking to him throughout the day - and also encouraging him to ask for things rather than give them to him right away - but I do feel like I was doing that - but now I am really conscious of it.

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answers from Chicago on

My son was almost 2 & didnt talk. My Dr wasnt concerned & said it was because he was the only one & we met all his needs.

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like you are on the right track with starting sign language and getting an evaluation set up. If they recommend speech therapy it will only help your son but do keep in mind that some therapists are WAY better than others. My older son started speech therapy around 20 months by the time everything was set up through EI. He has a brain injury in the area that generally controls language so we were extra diligent. Speech therapy at that age is mostly play based so it's not so hard to manage and good speech therapist will have lots of ideas of things you can do at home to encourage language development. My son started really "talking" after he turned 2. He continues to receive speech therapy and is now 4 1/2. Some kids start talking on their own later, some don't. Why take the chance?

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answers from Chicago on

This is a time of such development...if your son is just learning to walk or is mastering some other skill he may be putting all his energy into that and not talking. We were worried about our 4 year old when she wasn't really talking and she was older than 2. Now I rue the day that kid started talking...she won't shut up. Seriously---the kid talks to herself, her toys, while she's walking, while she's in the bathroom, constantly! Back to your issue---For her, she had so much going on between 1 and 2 (walking, we adopted her, so many changes in her life and her body development) that she spent her time studying and watching...like your son she communicated her desires but just didn't focus on actual speech. Have him evaluated and put your mind to rest and then relax.



answers from Los Angeles on

This happened with us with our first daughter. She was 27 months old before she began to say anything more than a few words....now she's 6.5 years old and we can't get her to be quiet! LOL! Seriously, don't worry too much. My doctor scared me and we had our daughter evaluated by Easter Seals and everything. It's just that she didn't have much to say and began talking when she did. At 2 years old she had a vocabulary of about 10-15 words. Don't worry too much just yet, 16 months is still very young. My son really started talking a lot just before he turned 2.



answers from Chicago on


I have 3 kids (7, 4 and almost 2). My first child, a girl, talked non-stop from age 14 months, a total jabber box. My second child has a developmental delay due to a chromosomal abnormality so we've had her in speech therapy from 12 months on. She did not start talking (not even momma and dadda) until she was 3 1/2. We went through EI and I cannot say enough about them. They were AWESOME! My little guy will be 2 next month. He's been a bit quiet, but has about 25 words and none of the other issues my daughter had. Also, his chatty sisters seem to steal his thunder quite a bit! I'm pretty sure he'll be fine, but I have that EI number handy just in case...
I would say definitely have the evaluation. It cannot hurt and even if they do find a delay, speech therapy is all play based and in your home, so it's actually fun for them. Like the other poster said, they can also give you lots of ideas on how to encourage language development. Yes, he'll talk when he's ready, but there's no harm in obtaining a few more tools to help him along.




answers from Chicago on

My son did this same thing. He did not talk till he was 2 years old. This was the reason and I hope it is the same for you.

Our son was getting close to 2 years old and he had never said very much but just as you said he pointed a lot. When he was in for a doctor appointment I asked him what about this. At first he said that it could be part of the ear infections he had when he was younger but he said "I think it is because your son is to smart for his own good." I said what are you talking about. He said, "I have been watching you while we have been talking every time your son wants something he point or nudges you and you seem to give him what he wants. Why does he have to talk if you give him everything he needs." We stopped responding to his pointing and nudges and he started to talk.

If this ends up being what the problem is get ready because A child who is like this will continue to think out everything they do. They will look at every action they make (that might get them in trouble) as is it worth it?

He is now 17 years old, a Senior in high school and preparing for college, so all worked out great. So hopefully that is all it is.



answers from Chicago on

I agree with one of the responses that these doctors, although on the whole are great, try to get our children to fit into certain "boxes". I have 3 children and although one is legitimatly in speech therapy (he is on the autistic spectrum), I have a daughter who is 2 and already in speech therapy. I am torn on that descision, because she has no other delays and seems to comunicate well otherwise.I feel in my gut that she will progress at her own rate( don't the books keep telling us that?),but I keep her in for a few reasons: It's state paid for, she gets a playmate once a week( and believe me it only a playmate at this point),and I do have to wonder if it will help.I would recommend you breathe deep, go with you gut, and just keep loving him to death.



answers from Chicago on

I don't think this sounds like a major problem. Is he making vowel and consonent sounds? Boys tend to talk later than girls.

My 16 month old girl says mama, dada, nene, and a couple other names and is just starting to respond to "what does a cow say".

No one has indicated that this is out of the range of normal to us.

I wouldn't start thinking about this until they're 2....



answers from Chicago on

I personally don't agree with your doc, but who am i?

my son is 15 months, and although he doesn't say a lot of clear words, he still 'communicates'. I think that is about right for this age. he says a form of 'apple', 'thank you', 'daddy' 'uh oh', and points when he wants something, and makes himself understood to us. he tries to repeat what we say, and works on words...and so far my pediatrician is not concerned. I think at his age, early intervention is a bit much...

It reminds me of my dentist referring my 9 yr old to the orthodontist because she will eventually need braces. She still had 4 baby teeth in her mouth, so the ortho said he wanted to pull them to get the braces on. Isn't that jumping the gun a little bit? I said no, we'll wait until they fall out on their own. sometimes doctors can be a little preemptive in their actions when it's not quite necessary yet.

If you feel better, get the advice of the early intervention people or even a second opinion with another pediatrician.

good luck!


answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,
my son was 18 month old,he didn't have much to say.
The Doctor wanted him to have speech therapy and was very angry when I didn't agree.
I told her that he is learning two languages,but still she was offended.
Now he is 3.5 talks normal and trust me a lot!
And most moms I have talked to, their kids talked very late also.

I'm so annoyed with these Doctors,they have these guidlines
and want us to feel stupid....
Trust your instinct.



answers from Chicago on


Yep - Start SINGING!! – all the kids songs, all the ‘good ol
songs’ you can remember. Sing the ABC’s – sing numbers. YOU Don’t have to be GOOD – just sing. This will improve his vocabulary now, and help him later when you start singing spelling words <IN YEARS to come>!!!

Good Luck.



answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,

I have 3 kids. My daughter was talking very early. Then I had girl/boy twins, and my son was talking very early. But at 16 months, my twin girl wasn't saying anything except dada, now & then mama, and making "mmm-mmm" sounds and pointing to get what she wanted. She also used signs and gestures that we pretty much made up to get her to not cry over things, like rubbing her hands together to indicate "all done." Having 2 early talkers, and one being her twin, I was very concerned. Because I had 2 talkers, though, our pediatrician was not concerned. She clearly could hear and understand directions and carry out simple tasks when asked. Our doc said that as long as she was developing normally in other ways and making speech progress over several months at a time instead of losing skills, he was not concerned. It's so hard to evaluate your OWN kid over several months, though, especially when you're around other same-age kids who seem to be talking so much! He said that if she wasn't saying at least 3 words clearly besides mama & dada by age 2, we should have her evaluated. Well, at the time, I figured going from 16 months to 2 years old wasn't that long and I was very worried. My best advice is to relax and be patient. Read to your son, talk to him, tell him what you're doing around the house. Name objects for him. Give him the words - because one day he will surprise you. They're like little sponges waiting for the right time sometimes. At 18 months, I was still worried, but then it was like a light switch went on in her head before 19 months. Suddenly, and I mean practically overnight, we would hear her talking. Not to us, but to her twin brother in their room over the monitor. He always was talking at her, but she never said anything back. Over a couple of days time, we would literally find her hiding and talking - behind the couch, around the corner, whatever. When we'd come in and praise her and repeat her, she'd be silent and smile. Now at almost 23 months, she talks ALL the time and repeats almost anything you ask her to. She has a vocabulary of over 80 words and she says new things (clearly) every single day. It just took a little longer for her start. Once she did, it was like opening the flood gates. If your doctor is recommending evaluation, do it. It will never hurt and can only give you more information. But do realize that you'll be dealing with people who are trained to look for and deal with problems and delays. That has stirred up some panic in the moms I know who have done it...putting your kid under the microscope, so to speak. You don't have an older child to use as a benchmark, though, so it never hurts to start early. I have a friend who's had 2 children tested, her youngest is just now starting the process. Because her oldest had some real speech (and hearing other sensory) problems, she was quick to jump on a hearing evaluation for her now 22 month old who isn't even saying mama or dada. She'll go to NSSED next, and she'd recommend anyone with potential issues do the same. With the first kid, it's always so hard to know what's right and when, but I'm sure it'll all work out for you. Good luck.

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