My Toddler Only Makes Sound Effects!

Updated on May 18, 2010
C.B. asks from Ortonville, MI
18 answers

Hi mamas,

My little boy just turned 18 months old and hardly says anything at all aside from sound effects (he does a lot of make believe and gives his toys sound effects like cars driving, planes flying etc.!) I know he understands everything we say and he's great with following commands (wipe the table, take your shoes off, etc.) but he doesn't even say mama yet! The only things he says regularly are dada and "I want that" which when he says it sounds like "ahwaddat". Since I'm a stay at home mom I'd like to try some things on my own before taking him to speech therapy.

Some notes: His father and I already speak to him quite a lot, read to him everyday, and he doesn't use a pacifier

Any help or suggestions would be great. Thank you.

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answers from Columbus on

Honey, you have already done what needs to be done with an 18 month old before you take him to speech therapy. The earlier you start, the better off he will be, it is time now. Call in the morning and make that appointment, you will never, ever get this time back, and it is the only thing you have here that is free, so don't waste another day.


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answers from Detroit on

Sounds like it'll develop and that his hearing is OK. The school district can evaluate him, but I wouldn't do it this early. I wouldn't worry yet. They all talk at different times and he is verbally communicating somewhat and understanding, so I doubt anything is wrong. Hang in there!

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answers from Portland on

Sounds like you are doing the right things as parents. Every child has some early and some late developmental areas, and if he's understanding you well, I wouldn't be too concerned yet. Our neighbors intentionally raised their son to be German/English bilingual, and he understood everything, but didn't try to speak until he was around three. Then he started out fluently in both languages, speaking in full, comprehensible paragraphs.

You might be able to encourage some words by playing some of his games with him, and providing words or phrases that some of his "characters" are speaking. He may incorporate some repeated phrases into future play. My grandboy 4.5 adores my contributing to his games and vocabulary in this way. For example, we have little planes we fly around. Before takoff, we run through a "Pre-flight checklist: fuel, check; wings, check; rudder, check; landing gear, check; power, check…. Blue Ace, you are now cleared for takeoff on Runway Two. Beware of turbulence at 2000 feet…." "Turblience" is now one of his favorite pretend words, and it's so cute I don't correct him.

Of course, I started with much simpler words, and built up to this level. My youngest sister, my daughter, and my grandson all started with the word "hot," which is easy, and fun, to say, and easy to comprehend.

You could start with very simple words and phrases that would be relatively easy for your son to shape with his mouth.

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answers from Detroit on

Boys are visual, girls verbal... Both my boys didn't really speak more than grunt talk and sounds until they were 3 1/2... You know they understand, they would repeat things after you, but when they spoke of their own accord it was grunteese... Then one day the gates opened and now the one in school gets in trouble for talking TOO much...

Some kids start orating when really young... Others think, store up their words, and let them out when they are comfortable that they are master over those words. :-) Doesn't mean they need "therapy"... No amount of coaxing will get my 3 yr old to speak more english than HE wants to...

As long as they follow commands, understand what your saying, interact, and make the sound effects I would not worry about it till after the 4th b-day...

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answers from Dallas on

Neither of my boys started talking much until they were 2, and then they started sepaking like crazy.

Children master one thing first, either physical or verbal. Boys tend to master the physical milestones, climbing, jumping, clapping before speech, while girls usually are the other way around.

He says "dada" and is making word sounds, so hearing isn't an issue. Just do a lot of one on one talking, word games, read to him books every day, do flash cards, play games like "I spy", encourage him to answer in words. He'll get there.

Here are some articles that gives lots of advice:

Also, ECI is free, so they can do an evaluation and help as well if you want to go that route.

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answers from Honolulu on

ALL his "sounds" are a "precursor" to talking.
So don't worry.

He is young.
Is his Ped worried? If not don't worry.
Boys, are generally later with talking.

It has nothing to do with them understanding.... even if they understand everything, it doesn't mean something is off with them, just because they don't 'talk' yet.

Einstein... did not even talk until 3 years old. And he was a Genius!

And, the 'articulation' and pronounciation of words, are not perfect yet.. .they are STILL needing to get their mouth motor-skills in line... it is in the p.r.o.c.e.s.s of developing. Talking... takes mouth/tongue/lips/throat coordination.

My son, had speech therapy from 19 months old until almost 3 years old. They gave him an overall developmental assessment and he was even "advanced' in several areas for his age. Just talking, he was "late." Not anything wrong with him clinically, he was just not ready, nor his coordination of his mouth yet. But the speech therapy DOES and DID help. It was free, that is why I did it and I believe early intervention helps. Every state, has an "Early Intervention" program to address speech and other developmental concerns. In my state, they are really great.
Ask you Pediatrician about it. You don't have to be referred, at least in my State. I just signed up myself.

Even with reading, talking a lot to him etc., if the child is not ready nor able to talk... it will take time. But whatever you do, do NOT "force" it or make him feel odd about it or that you are disappointed in him. That will not encourage the child.

all the best,

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answers from St. Louis on

What has his pediatrician said about this? They usually ask at the 15 month check up.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter is 18 months. She does have a few words (Mama, Dada or Daddy, Bye) and she makes a bunch of animal sounds and has some sign language... but she too is a sound effect girl. She uses signs and sounds for all kinds of things... zipping her jacket, changing her diaper (ewwwww), eating (a sign and a sound).

My boys were both talking at 18 months (really talking) but I don't think I am worried about her yet. We have her 18 month appointment next week and I plan to talk it over with our pediatrican, but I think she's probably fine.

Kids develop at all different paces. My daughter moves like a two year old... she was running by 10 months.

Keep up what your doing, discuss it with your pediatrician and go from there.


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answers from Detroit on

We had the same issue with my son at that age. My Dr. told me to wait until he was over 2 before I became concerned. We ended up taking him to speech therapy because it did not improve in it's own.

One thing that really helped us was working on the WAY we were talking to him. Our therapist wanted us to get down on his level look right in his face when we were speaking with him. When he says "I want that" they wanted me to repeat what he said and add to the sentance - such as "Oh you want the red car?"

Don't be afraid of speech therapy. I received a lot of negativity from friends and family for taking a 2 year old to speech therapy. In my heart I knew something was wrong - and I am so glad I listened!

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answers from Detroit on

While I applaud your dedication, speech issues can be pretty serious. My daughter started speech therapy around 18 months. She ended up having sensory issues that affected her speech. It took occupational therapy before she would talk (she had a big word burst after age 2 finally). I strongly recommend you contact Early On and have him evaluated. They have attended school and have the training to work with children with speech issues. They will give you things to work on at home with him, but this way is also receiving professional help.

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answers from Detroit on

My 6 yr old daughter was like that .. She didn't really start talking til between 2 1/2 and 3 yrs old.. Have your son evaluated by a state program Early On.. In my area its called TOTE .. We live in Allen Park, but it was a program through the Brownstown School District. The 1st evaluation we had done was at 19 months and to my surprise they said she didn't qualify for the program because of the few words (and i mean few, lol) words that she did say and her comprehension/understanding.. So they scheduled another evaluation at 24 months. The same lady came out to my house and at that point that lady said that she DID qualify and called it expressive language delay. My daughter also understood everything, just wasn't speaking. She would babble on and on like she was on the phone, but it didn't sound like english, lol (and thats all we speak)... Glad to say that everything was fine and that once she did start talking she spoke a lot more clear/articulate than other kids! Even better than a cousin 3 years olds (still does to this day,lol).. So, I just think some kids are late talkers no matter what you do, they are taking it all in and one day they will speak nice clear sentences. I understand the worry, cause I drove myself nuts with it.. The important thing is that he is understanding what you tell him to do, and the pretend play is great! My 6 yr old daughter has and always had an amazing imagination! My 18 month old daughter is talking a lot, total opposite of my 6 yr old ... total opposite, its amazing!
Good Luck :)
Oh I forgot to mention the name of the program that we were in for a year was TOTE (teaching our tots early) .. The Speech Teacher would come to our house 2 times a week for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs each day to work with the child. Its very convienient... Ok , thats all...good luck

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answers from Springfield on

I have two sons with speech delays and the one thing that I can tell you for certain is that early intervention does make a difference. He is young yet and it is encouraging that he responds to you and engages in pretend play; however, you shouldn't hesitate to have him evaluated by your local Birth to Three Program... which is free usually. Also, I would recommend a hearing test. If he should need treatment down the road that will be the first thing that they ask you.
Good luck and just keep talking to him!



answers from Detroit on

My brother did not talk untill 3 but when he started he never stopped lol. He never had a speach problem either. Every child is different. Good luck!



answers from Scranton on

Hi C.,

I'm not sure why your toddler doesn't attempt to talk. My suggestion comes from early intervention we had for my daughter. She was a premmie so we needed help to get her started also. They would enforce with pictures or items that your child sees. For example if your child likes a certain toy try to make him say what it is ( teddy bear, truck, ball, exc.). Hold it and keep repeating what it is before you give it to him. Also works with foods like apples, bananas, milk, cup, water. Hope this helps in some way. Lots of luck. H.



answers from Boston on

You might want to make that call now because depending on where you go and what kind of insurance you have you might be put on a waiting list and have to wait for months. The sooner you get him in the better. You can use what the therapist does is the session to work with your son at home.
You should also have him seen by an ENT to see if there is any fluid built up in his ears. My son had to have tubes put in his ears to drain them. Ear infections were never a problem because he was used to the fluid in his ears so he didn't notice anything was wrong.



answers from Detroit on

Early On evaluations are FREE and you will know exactly where your child stands. He may not qualify for any services, but the evaluator may point out how to help encourage the speech along, which would be helpful. 18 months is not too young to be evaluated and it will give you peace of mind.

Does he make a variety of consonant sounds in his babbling? Is he making any word approximations? Does he point to communicate? With respect to understanding language, does he point to body parts when you ask? Does he point to pictures in a book when you ask ("Where is the bear?"). Good-- he doesn't use a pacifier; does he walk around with a sippy cup in his mouth?


answers from Detroit on

Years ago I had the same concerns. I will tell you this, each child has his own pace and the right time for them to talk is when they start talking. That said, if he truly has expressive issues, early intervention would be key. Michigan school system has a great program you can call 800earlyon to schedule an evaluation.



answers from Tampa on

Our son really wasn't speaking much at that age, either. I think the most important thing is that he is understanding you and making sounds which, as others have mentioned, are precursors to speech. I don't think you have to run to the speech therapist yet... it sounds as if you are doing the right things.

Once our son started talking, his vocabulary increased quickly. He is now a few months shy of 3, and his language is much better than average... we often can't get him to stop talking! We did the same things you already are... talking to him (using regular, adult language, not baby talk), reading to him, and just in general encouraging him to say things. One thing you may want to do is not respond when he points or otherwise indicates he wants something and try to get him to say the word.

If you feel he isn't progressing at all, then talk with your pediatrician to see what they recommend. I know ours was never concerned, and it turns out, he was right not to be.

Good luck!

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