My 3 Year Old Won't Answer Questions

Updated on August 09, 2013
D.E. asks from Tampa, FL
9 answers

My youngest will be 3 this month. He is starting a pre-school like program next month. He has a well child and physical scheduled next week and I plan on speaking with the doctor but thought I'd get some opinions/experiences here too.
He is smart. He learned his alphabet on his own playing a v-tech game. He knows all of his colors, shapes and numbers. His vocabulary is improving, but it has been a struggle.
I have been really noticing the fact that when I ask him a question, he doesn't hardly ever answer it. He just repeats it back to me and nods his head yes mostly if it's something he wants. For example if I ask "Jack, what color popsicle do you want?" He'll nod yes and say "What color do you want?" If I say do you want blue, yellow or pink? He'll nod and say blue, yellow or pink.
He does ASK questions. "Mommy where's Maggie?" (the dog) or "Mommy can I have juice?"
But if you ask him something he usually just repeats it. Or the other default is saying no. He says no A LOT..... to the point of exhaustion sometimes.
What do you mom's (and dads) think? Should I be concerned? Again I am discussing this with the pediatrician next week.

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So What Happened?

He can point to a letter if you ask him to show you, or if you say "What letter is this?" he will answer correctly. And he does ask full questions. Like yesterday I was upstairs and I hear him say to his older brother "Luke, where's mommy?" And he also "quizzes" me. He'll bring me his picture books and point at things and ask me "Mommy, what's this?" and he loves it when I answer him!

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answers from New York on

My big question, which you answered partially, is whether he has conversations. Beyond question-answer sessions, does he converse back and forth?

My own son was a little slow to talk, but on his third birthday (literally, on his birthday) he began to converse. I remember this huge conversation about whether various animals, toys, and cars were "pretend" or "real."

If he does converse, the question thing honestly sounds like a minor quirk and something that will work itself out in time.

If not, there might be a language-processing or social-processing issue going on, but either way, he sounds super-smart. It's very common for highly intelligent kids to be "twice exceptional." And with greater intelligence comes greater and more creative coping capacity, though it may not always be a smooth or predictable road.

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answers from St. Louis on

This sounds like a speech problem to me and it is really great that you are going to bring this up at his next well visit. Have you ever heard of echolalia? Your son may have this. It does present itself during the normal patterns of learning speech but at age would not be this prevalent. He should be able to answer all of your questions pretty easily by this age and his speech should be well understood and in sentences. Take some quick video of him just having normal interaction with you and play it back for the pediatrician at your visit. Sometimes when we want the kids to do something or express a behavior that they have been doing in front of someone else, they never cooperate! This way, you will have footage to show if that happens. If this is echolalia or another form of a speech problem, you will be referred to a speech therapist or speech pathologist to help get him on the right track. They are very talented and gifted people who work wonders with children. Kids learn very quickly in this setting too. One of my daughters had lazy "r" and also a weak musculature of her tongue that needed a year of speech therapy at age three. She did just fine and all of it was addressed and fixed. She speaks perfectly. You have a great eye for detail in noticing all this and I commend you for not thinking it is just a phase or something like that. Let us know how everything turns out.

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answers from Miami on

I think you should ask your ped for a referral to a speech and language therapist. Speech therapists don't just work with speech. They work with language as well. She will evaluate your child's receptive and expressive language skills.

I really think it's very important that you do this.

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answers from Cleveland on

Couple of things:

You might want to take a couple 30 second videos of ds for the dr to see.

You said he knows the alphabet but does that mean if you say jack show me letter z he points to it???? Or does it mean if you point and say "what's this?" That he says. Its letter K. Saying k is expressive language.

Also is he actually saying "where is maggie?" Or is he saying "maggie?" And looking around for her.

You could try role playing w him. Get out spiderman and ask spidy the popsicle question and you make a spidey voice (lol) and repeat like he does the be the momagain and correct spidey and say no red OR blue and use your spidey voice to answer correctlt.

Honestly he is prob fine, I always felt and evaluation would give me peice of mind one way or another.

Sorry typed on my phone.

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answers from Philadelphia on

What he is doing is called echolalia. Google it to learn more. Echolalia can be a normal part of speech development but by 3 I would expect he could answer questions. I think it is a good idea to talk to his ped about this.

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answers from New York on

Can be very normal. Give him a bit of time unless there is a dramatic change in his language skills. Some kids, are just a bit slower with regards to language, especially boys. They would rather climb Mt. Everest and then jump off of it, instead of having a conversation!

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answers from Columbia on

My eldest repeated nearly everything I said. Sometimes over and over. I drove me nuts.

But it's not necessarily an indicator of anything wrong.

My son is ridiculously intelligent. It just took him a while to catch up on the question-asking. And once he did, boy oh boy, he asked and asked.



answers from Santa Barbara on

There is a term called echolalia. If you google it, some stories could be similar and some very extreme from your child. You are on the right track to ask his doctor and hopefully you can get a speech evaluation.

My son was a very early talker and extremely intelligent. He also repeated things back around that age. He is now 6 and that is a distant memory. Back when he was in preschool a speech therapist came in and flagged him with possible echolalia. I took him to a speech therapist (not the one that showed up at the school because other parents with older kids joked that she is always trying to find something to drums up business). The testing took a lot longer and my husband was annoyed that my son was going through this (it was not a big deal and I watched him from the other side of a glass mirror). He was above level and was not diagnosed with echolalia.

I was thinking about it and having echolalia could be turned into a positive. Think of all the people who do not really hear what you say and misinterpret things. My son used to repeat back with the same tone. I thought it was amazing. He did answer me too, so it was not as frustrating as some people explain it.



answers from Hartford on

Contact your local school system and ask for a speech and language eval. He might be not need services, but always good to check it out plus they will give you some tips to help him out! Good luck!

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