Encouraging Language Use in Two Year Old.

Updated on August 28, 2006
T.M. asks from Mansfield, OH
30 answers

My 2 1/2 year old daughter is not talking very much. She does say some words, though infrequently. It is clear that she can hear, understands language, and even follows directions. However, she does not speak back to us. She sings a great deal, and even seems to understand her own "language". My doctor has advised me to wait until her three year old check up to evaluate her. He has told me that I should be concerned, but not alarmed about this. He also said that since it is apparent that she can hear and understand us, we should just continue to talk to her, and encourage her to talk back. Does anyone have any ideas about how to encourage more language use? I have tried to even make her ask for things before giving them to her, but that usually results in a tantrum and frustration on her part and mine. Sometimes, I think she knows what she wants but cannot find the right words. I have even tried to say the word for her and ask her to repeat it. She still seems frustrated. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much for the advice. I called our Early Intervention program last Friday morning. A service coordinator is coming to our house this Friday morning to assess my daughter and determine the best course of action. Thanks so much to all who answered! I'll let you know how it goes. T.

Thanks again for the help. My daughter was evaluated, and Help Me Grow determined that she did have a speech delay. We are planning to put her into the pre school with our district, as well as begin some individual speech therapy. I'm so glad we did not wait, and thank you all again for your help. T.

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J.

answers from Lima on

Have you ever considered sign language? You don't need to learn the whole language, but just bits and pieces of it. I used a video called 'Signing Time' and it was so cute, the music was even fun for me to listen to and helped me learn the signs the same time my children were. You can go to www.signingtime.com and find more information out about it. It was very helpful for my children and for me to have another way to communicate with them. I would highly recommend it.

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T.

answers from Columbus on

try this web sight for some video's my kids liked. www.babybumblebee.com -- they are like video flashcards -- by 2 my kids like the colors and ABC video's

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M.

answers from Columbus on

The only thing I have to offer is sign language. I have heard that teaching to children helps them communicate their needs and vocalize more. I have a friend who taught her son sign language and at 1 1/2 years old he likes to tell you about everything and what it does. Hope that helps you out.

M.

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J.

answers from Detroit on

at the age of 2 my now almost 5 yr old uttered nary a word. His pedi said not a problem (but i disagreed)I looked into our local early intervention program that offers FREE evaluations for children 0-3 yrs of age.
Here is yours Richland County of: Early Intervention
255 Hedges St
Mansfield, OH 44902
###-###-####
call them you will get a free evaluation and if your child qualifies you will get free service too....we did and now my almost 5 yr old is making up for not talking - i yi yi!!

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E.M.

answers from Columbus on

Hi T., I am a speech pathologist and I work mostly with the birth to 3 year old population. While kids do develop at different rates, I disagree wholeheartedly with your doctor about waiting until your daughter turns 3. I think if you are concerned, you should follow your instinct and get her evaluated. Because she is under 3, you may be able to receive services through your county for free! and sometimes the therapist even comes to your home. Mostly this looks like play based therapy, and the speech path would work with both you and your daughter to encourage increased expressive language. Contact your county's "board of developmental disabilities" to find out if this is offerred. I would also check your insurance to see if speech therapy is covered, and then you could look in the phone book to find a clinic that offers evaluation/services. I am such a strong believer that it is so much more beneficial to begin early, rather than wait. I have 10 years of experience in the field,and can attest to the progress that little ones make when they receive early intervention services. Very best of luck to you.Feel free to email me if you have more questions!! E.

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J.C.

answers from Detroit on

T.,
I only have a minute right now but please feel free to contact me off list. I really understand your concerns as I have a child that was a late talker and was diagnosed with Apraxia. It is a neurological speach condition, and at 18 months had NO words at all. At 2 1/2 he had a few, but only because of speech therapy and Early Intervention. My ped. told me the same thing "wait and see" approach. I can tell you this DO NOT WAIT! An evaluation through your school district is FREE and will put your mind at ease if they determine there is no language problems that requires interevntion at this point. If there is a need...THE SOONER THE BETTER! Every month counts when they are under 3 and learning language. Call your school disrtict office, or do a google search for the Early Intervention program in your area. They will come to your house, do a full evaluation and then give you a report and options. We get speech therapy, and a special class for my son who is now four and making remarkable progress and thanks to the early help, will probably be in a regualr Kindergarden class room!
My private email address is: [email protected]____.com and live in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi township area.

Good luck and please email with any questions you might have!
J.

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K.C.

answers from Columbus on

Hi T., If your Doctor is telling you that you should be concerned but then telling you to wait six months to figure out the problem, I would suggest you see a new doctor. There could be many reason your daughter has speech delay and waiting six months till she's 3 to figure out what the problem is, will only set you back 6 months as far as finding the cause and taking the necessary steps to repair or deal with the problem. I have 2 girls myself ages 3 and 7. My advice to you would be to insist your doctor sees/evaluates her very immediately or get a second opinion from another doctor. I'm not meaning to scare you but I have 2 close friends who's children had serious speech delay and were then diagnosed with Autism.

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R.D.

answers from Grand Rapids on

T.,

There is a great program called Early On. They work with children under three just for such things. THey actauuly help the whole family help the child. The best thing is that it is free. I use to be a teacher and have seen marvelous things from them. There number is 1-800-earlyon.

R.

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J.N.

answers from Dayton on

Hi, have tired signing? Alot of time this works for good for children you have trouble talking or hearing. There are alot of classes and books on this.

jo

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K.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi T.,
I am a speech pathologist and also a mom to a 16 mo. old. It is definitely concerning that your 2 1/2 year old is not saying many words. At her age she should have many single words and should be starting to put words together (such as "more milk", "big ball"). It definitely can't hurt to have an evaluation or at least a speech screening. I would also get her hearing checked. Even if she turns when you call her name and responds to loud sounds, she could still have a mild hearing loss which would affect language development. I read some of the other responses which suggested contacting your local public school or the state early intervention agency (which provides services for children ages 0-3). This would be a great place to start. Your insurance may also cover private speech therapy. At home you can try giving her choices. For example, if she points to her cup and grunts say "Do you want milk or a cracker? Milk or cracker?" If she continues to grunt again say "milk or cracker?" emphasizing the beginning sounds of both. If she even attempts to say the word give lots of praise and give her the desired item. So if she says "mmm" for milk you would say "Oh! You want milk! Good talking! You asked mommy for milk!" Don't ask her to repeat words (such as "say milk"). Most kids will not do this. Sounds in which the lips are used together (m,b,p) are easiest to say so try to give choices using words that start with these sounds (ball or puppy). Hope this helps and good luck!

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Y.L.

answers from Cleveland on

My older son who is almost 6 yr old now, he is a radio which has no switch button for on/off. Since he was very independent or determine, he did everything that in his ablities to aviod using words. He didn't even call "mommy" till he was 2yr old. As your daughter, my older son hear, understand and follow directions very well. Pre school definitely helps encoruage them uses more words, other children won't understand if he or she doesn't use words to communicate. Singing is a great way to encorage language use! i am sure you do worry about the speech delay, but hey, Albert Einstein doesn't talk a full sentences till he was 5 yr old.

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J.

answers from Cincinnati on

My husband didn't speak much until he was 3 -- very similar to your daughter, it sounds like, sang a lot and talked to himself. Once he did start talking, he never stopped!

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T.

answers from Dayton on

I have a 10 year old son, 6 year old daughter and 19 month old son. Both my 10 year old and 6 year old were already speaking sentences @ 19 months old (the same age as my youngest) and my 19 month old is not speaking either and my doctor did tell me that it was a concern @ 2 years old because he could end up with a speech problem if he does not learn to speak and say the words he needs to. I am going through the same thing as you and even though this is my 3rd child this is all new to me since I did not have this problem with the other 2. I really wish I could help, but if you find anything out please send me an email @ [email protected]____.com. Thanks and good luck!

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C.C.

answers from Columbus on

Try integrating sign language into your vocabulary. There is a wonderful book called "Baby Signs" that you could probably find at your local library. If it is not available any book on sign language will be able to provide you with the language you use in everyday life with your baby. There are also wonderful board books for babies. Right now we have a book about bedtime that has really helped with the evening routine.
It's as simple as consistently doing the sign for a word as you speak it.

Also, you can visit signingbaby.com it is an absolutely wonderful site with all the info you need to get started.

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R.S.

answers from Cleveland on

READ, READ, READ! Read to your child at least 30 minutes a day. Choose stories that are easy and repetetive so she can memorize them and say them along with you. Ask her questions..."what is that monkey doing there?", "What color is that girls hat?" Then repeat back to her..."yes, it is red." Every time your child does speak, repeat it back to her the proper way without making a big deal about the way she says it. If she says, "the monkey is paying" and she really means playing say, "yes, the monkey is playing." She may just be stubborn, my boy was and then all of a sudden his language skills just exploded. Good Luck.

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M.

answers from Detroit on

Dear T..
My name is M. and i just went through the same thing with my 2 1/2 year old son. Just like your peditrition mine told me not to worry as well. As long as he was understading us. However I chose to take him for an evalution at the abilites center in walled lake and i am so glad i did. For the last 4 months I have watched his vocabulary grow. Through them working with him and me learning their techniques, its been amazing. His tantrums are less as now he can communicate with us and his confidence with his speech has grown so much. I learned that it was just delay of speech. I just wanted to give you some quick things to maybe hekp and should you have any more questions plese feel free to contact me. the first technique is acting silly while you play or acting dumb when she points to something that she wants. For example if she wants a cup hand her a book instead, and make her at least try and say cup, and repeat it for her oh you want the cup. But before handing it to her repeat it a couple times oh you want teo cup. also there is a website full of games and cards for speech called superduper publications. com. Basically she will think its new games to play with but really its speech tools. Good luck and if you have any other questions please feel free to contact me ar [email protected]____.com

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B.A.

answers from Dayton on

Hi T.. I understand your frustrations with your daughter's speech or lack there of it. My son who will be four in Sept. didn't talk at all not even baby talk until he was 28 months. We used the birth to three early intervention program through the state of WV and they did wonderful. At age 35 months he was saying sentences. Your doctor should be especially concerned even at 2 because if a child is not talking it can slow down there development as well. This was the case with my son. The early intervention evaluated him for speech, development and physical abilities and provided all therapies needed free of charge. Also though your daughter hears you she may not be hearing all the sounds that are forming the words. It is very possible for someone for instance to not hear a specific letter like "r" or "l". If they don't hear every letter sound then the words you say are broken up and they can only understand parts of what you are saying to them therefore making it difficult to repeat what they are hearing. A speech evaluation would include an in deepth hearing evaluation to see if this is the case with your daughter. Next year (though you shouldn't wait that long to get help) your daughter should qualify for preschool for children with speech delays. It is free and is through the public school system. In the mean time I would certainly call your local early intervention contact and schedule to have an IEP done. IEP is the evaluations and the goals set for your daughter to get her "caught up". It will be done by you and a team of therapists. You will be in 100% control of everything that is done to or for your daughter and the team is there to assist you in anyway that they can. Best wishes for you and your daughter and if I can be of any further assistance please let me know.

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J.F.

answers from Dayton on

T.,
My son sounds a lot like your daughter. He is now 4 years old, but he was not speaking much at all at two. I enrolled him in a Kindermusik class. It was the best thing I could have done for him. During the two years he participated, I noticed a dramatic difference in his ability and desire to want to communicate. I believe their website is Kindermusik.com. I would contact them if you are interested to see if there is anything in your area.

J. F.

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C.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I am a mom and a speech and language pathologist (SLP). My advice is to get in touch with a SLP to have your daughter evaluated. This can be done free through your local school district. The rule of thumb is that by age two, a child should be using 2 word combinations. If there is a problem, it's always better to address it early. If there isn't a problem, at least you have peace of mind, but I don't see the benefit of waiting another six months. It is encouraging that she seems to understand language and can follow your directions. The best thing you can do for her right now to encourage expressive language is (1) provide a language rich environment - talk to her in all your daily activities ( book reading, bath time, cooking, grocery shopping, etc.) and allow her lots of opportunity to talk to you if she can. (2) Modelling and expanding. If, for example, you're reading a book and she says "b" when she sees a ball, you would take that as an accurate response and praise her for it e.g "Yes, that's a ball. We can throw a ball!" Take any verbalization that she uses and praise her for it. A wonderful activity I use with alot of my young clients is blowing bubbles - it gives them oral motor practice for making certain sounds and you can say "pop" as the bubbles pop. This makes a fun game and the p, b, and m sounds are easy sounds to begin with for young ones. Hope this helps!

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K.F.

answers from Cincinnati on

My daughter who is now 5 was also a slow talker. One thing we did was read a lot of Dr Suess books that have a lot of rhyming words.This way it is fun and not a chore. She feels she is in control and you are not forcing it on her. ~K.

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N.W.

answers from Detroit on

T.,

My 2 1/2 year old speaks well beyond his age level. I have always talked to him-- ever since he was born, constantly. In the grocery store before used to stare because I would say ok, now Mama's putting green beens in the cart, ect. Anway, once he was old enough we made him ask for things. Around 15 mos he starting pointing and kind of grunting and we would say "use your words" and eventually he started. We also read to him a lot.

It can be a frustrating process, he would sometimes throw tantrums, but if I knew he knew the word I would make him ask.

If I were you I would contact your local school district,here in Michigan they have programs (usually free) to assist families and children with speech development, if they don't have such programs, the school should be able to get you in touch with a speech therapist (I don't think I would wait until 3--- if there is a problem, you will just have delayed help).

Good luck.

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L.S.

answers from Cleveland on

T., I don't know of any special techniques, but I know that some children tend to say only a certain number of words. Once they hit 3 years of age though, they start communicating in long and complete sentences. I used to babysit a child like that.

I hope she speaks soon for you!

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P.S.

answers from Cincinnati on

All you can do is set good examples and be consistant. I'd bet if you stood your ground and endured the nastiness for a week, you might start to see some results. You might want to try some things like that...Going hard core on insisting word use for one week, bribes with desired priveleges or a present for using words...and then you have "statistics" to report to a doc if she still resists using speech. You will know if she just isn't trying hard enough vs. if she might have a developmental issue or if it's a 'terrible 2' behavior.

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R.

answers from Cleveland on

I definetly feel for you, although my son is only 19 months old, he is the same way. It is very obvious that he can hear and understands the things I am saying to him, but only says a few words and the rest are in his own language as though I should know what he is saying. I agree with the sign language. I have heard that many times, if you use sign language for even simple works like drink and eat. I haven't been using this method for more then a week now, but I have heard sucess stories. GOOD LUCK.

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K.K.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi T.,
I am a teacher, so I had readily accessible materials when I had the same issue with my 2 year old. First, I would suggest reading all of the time. Read books, cereal boxes, toys whatever hyou can find. Then pick up a pack of flash cards from walmart or a teacher store that has just pictures-every night after or before bed time story, go through the pack-we did anywhere form 25-50 a night. Even if she doesn't repeat the words, she hears them and is associating the pictures with the words. Soon enough she will be talking. Remember if she hits 3 and is still not talking you can call your United Disability Services in your area and they will test her for speech and will provice speech services for free because in Ohio all children starting at the age of 3 are eligible for any services that they may need. If you need more information please feel free to email.
K.

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M.

answers from Cincinnati on

Definitely encourage you to consider using ASL (American Sign Language) with your daughter - study after study has shown that kids who learn to sign have an easier time speaking, too.

Here are some benefits for toddlers ages 18-36 months (from www.happyhands.info):
* Helps parents decipher toddler's speech
* Allows you to communicate silently when appropriate (church, library, restaurants)
* Results in a spoken vocabulary that exceeds the general norm
* Gives children a positive way to interact with one another (eg. a child can sign STOP rather than hit or push another child)
* Allows children to communicate in 2-4 word signing sentences, before they are able to do so with spoken words
* Continues to bridge the gap between a child's ability to understand language and his ability to articulate it
* Builds positive self-esteem since signs are quickly learned and understood.
* Enhances sibling relationships due to earlier communication ability
* Enhances fine motor skills and coordination
* Helps young children identify and express their emotions
* Provides children with a fun way to release physical energy
* Gives children a headstart on early literacy skills

There are often local toddler sign language classes available, if you like a group experience and have the $$. There are also books and videos that you can likely check out of your local public library.

We used Signing Time ( http://signingtime.com/ ), which is an excellent DVD series for signing with kids. We *loved* it! I believe it may actually playing on some PBS stations now:
http://www.signingtime.com/pressroom/stationcarriage.htm

You may also be able borrow Signing Time from your local library - if yours doesn't have it available, just request that your branch purchase it.

We used Signing Time with our daughter (together we watched the series & learned the signs) and loved it. She is now 3.5 yrs old, and it was fun, easy, really helpful, and absolutely helped communication between us! She signed before she spoke, then used both the word and the sign together, and eventually used only the spoken word and dropped the sign. It was fantastic to watch and to know what she needed, was thinking, feeling.

We now have a 6 month old son and we're signing with him too. What's especially cool is that big sister remembers the signs, so as a family we can sign for basics like more, eat, drink, sleepy, hurt, love, please, thank you, and some objects like ball, bird, banana, dog, airplane, etc. (I haven't put my son in front of the videos yet because I'd like to avoid TV for a little longer since he's so little and we already can use some signs.)

Best of luck!

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R.

answers from Columbus on

My daughter (our 3rd child) is also 2 1/2. She was not talking much AT ALL.........then about 2 weeks ago it just kicked in! Seriously - nothing we did - she decided when she was ready to do it on her own. We do read a tremendous amount.... and instead of having her "listen in" on the older boys books - we bought her ones specifically for her. One of her favorites is a picture dictionary that has the word in both Spanish and English. (Just because I liked it.) She LOVES the book - and we go through various items and say it in English - and then in Spanish. It doesn't seem to confuse her. Another good board book is Yummy, Yucky or Quiet, Loud. She loves them and all they do is name objects - but she gets to scream whether it is "Yummy or Yucky."
I really wouldn't worry - if she is really listening and understands you - she will amaze you when she DOES start talking! (Although you learn to trust your own insticts as a mom - if in the next several months things don't change - follow up!)
Good luck to you. I would like to hear back in a month or two!!
R.

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M.

answers from Cincinnati on

I haven't read others responses, so i'm sorry if I repeat anything :) At 2 my DS was not speaking. My ped then referred us to have a speach evaluation. I had so many people telling me give it time he will just start talking one day. Well let me say i'm glad I went with my gut and had him evaluated. My son is now almost 3 and has been in speech for a year. He is doing so much better, but far from age appropriate. He has Apraxia (not saying your DD has a disorder-just giving you my experience) and he had to learn how to say each letter of the alphabet. This is not something that would have just fixed itself. I really hope your DD just starts speaking one day. I know how frusterating it can be with the tantrums! To help with the tantrums in the beginning we used sign language, just very simple things and it helped tremendously (you can get great baby signing books at the library) So maybe try that?! Also I think the earlier you have her evaluated the better. Good Luck!!

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B.

answers from Detroit on

I went through that phase with my son....but it wasn't an unwillingness to respond - it was that he was unable. My son made virtually no sounds, other than crying until we got speech therapy. My son was diagnosed with apraxia (at about 21 months of age), and didn't even say 'mama' until he had been in therapy for 2 months! To mitigate some of his frustration, the SLP (Speech language pathologist) recommended we start using sign language (drink, eat, cookie, etc.) and this helped with the temper tantrums.
You can have your daughter's speech development checked for FREE with your local school district - call and tell them you want an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and explain the speech issue. Or, if your school isn't helpful (depends on the district) - call 1-800 EARLY ON to get some help. Early on will come to the house for an evaluation and a Family IEP. If you daughter needs help, it will be provided FREE. DON'T wait - the sooner you have intervention, the better off for everyone!

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H.S.

answers from Lansing on

Hi T.! My son is 32 months old, and he has a 4-word vocabulary. He has been in speech therapy and playgroups since January (unfortunately, since it's through the school district, there isn't anything during the summer). His speech therapist has hope for him, she says that he is definitely making progress! Just like anyone else will tell you, the child has to WANT to talk. He has learned that so far, he can get what he wants by using signs. Probably the most useful signs that he has learned are "help", "more", and "eat". Those 3 signs have saved what could have been HUNDREDS of temper-tantrums!! He also knows "kitty", "change" (for diapers, although he still doesn't like to use it, but he knows what it means), "night-night", and "I love you". He can point to many of his body parts when asked. His speech therapist says that he probably won't start talking all of a sudden, but it will happen! In January, since he'll be 3, he's going to start a preschool program. I think it's very important for children to be around other kids their own age.... I've seen my son imitate other children's actions, so pretty soon (if they keep talking to him), he'll start to repeat words! Just continue to give your daughter lots of love and encouragement, and know that you're doing the best that you can for her!

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