What Works – Strategies That Help Toddlers Learn to Talk

Here’s what I know after spending nearly 30 hours a week for the past 10 years in the homes of my little clients. Listed below are the 10 best ways to entice a child to interact, then communicate, then (FINALLY) talk!

1. Play, play, play, and when you’re tired of all that, play some more!

You absolutely, positively have to get down on the floor and play with your kid. You can narrate hisand your actions all day long, but until you put yourself in the thick of things in his world, you may not get much of a response to anything you try. For infants, this means holding them in your laps and playing early social games. Try old standards like So Big, Peek-a-boo, and Patty Cake. Or make up your own such as leaning them backwards or down from your lap and then pulling them up saying, “Down” then “Up.” For older babies, it means being down on the floor on the blanket and using developmentally-appropriate toys (more about that in another post!) and singing simple songs with hand motions led by you (not the CD or the DVD player!) For toddlers it means moving around with them and using their budding interests to determine your next activity.  For preschoolers, it means interjecting yourself into theirpretend games. For children who are not routinely social, YOU MUST become their favorite playmate at least some of the time instead of letting them remain self-absorded in their own spinning, button-pushing, TV-obsessed world.

2.Exude warmth and joy when you interact with your child.

Now I know that this is a stretch for most parents 100% of the time, but as a parent, or even a professional working with a child, you have to act excited and happy to be with them at least some, if not most, of the time. This change in attitude alone can make children who previously seemed antisocial begin to respond. For the kids who areare interested in playing, but not quite interacting, it causes them to want to sit and play WITH someone as opposed to hoarding the toys or continuously running around the room. Don’t get me started on what it does to kids who are already little social butterflies!  They are drawn to you like magnets, and so much so that they sob hysterically when you leave their homes.

For those of you who don’t know what this looks like or haven’t experienced being this “connected” to a child, try to imagine yourself “lighting up,” when your child walks into the room or looks at you. For the really clueless, it may help to start to notice it in other adults who interact well with children. Look for twinkly eyes and sincere expressions of affection. Sometimes I notice this in a Dad who walks into a room and immediately swoops a kid off his feet and then falls down on the floor in fits of tickles and riotous laughter. I also notice it in grandmothers who snuggle kids on their laps and talk sweetly and softly. It can come in all shapes and sizes, but the experience is the same. The kid who is on the receiving end of this usually responds in some positive way, although it may not be exactly what we’d want in the beginning. Even kids who don’t routinely initiate affection can learn to respond by allowing themselves to be hugged, or tickled, or caught as they run if a fun, caring adult persists in trying to woo them. If you’re not sure how you’re doing with this one, ask a friend or family member if you ACT like you love to play when you’re with your kid. (Not if you love them, but if you act like you love to play.) Watch yourself on videotape actually playing with your child. If you are not so mesmerized by your performance that you want to send it in to me as a great example for this post, try harder. It does get easier with practice.

3. Talk at and just above your child’s current language level most of the time during direct interactions.

Usually children understand at least a little more than they can say. (There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the child with autism who can recite lines from a movie, but she cannot ask for something she wants.) The theory here is that you want to challenge a child’s comprehension, support his ability to interact, and facilitate his ability to respond, all at the same time. Easier said than done, right?? Actually it is pretty simple when you think about the purpose of why you’re interacting with your child. For most of you reading this blog, your concern is that you want to teach your nonverbal child to talk. This means that you need to say most of what you say to them in the same way they could actually respond.

If your kid is nonverbal, or that is basically quiet except for a grunt or babble here and there, you generally are going to want to try to elicit sounds at first rather than words. Why?? (I can read your mind, and I’ve had so many parents react in such a shocked way when I say this that I naturally expect this response.) Because in babies whose language is developing in a more typical way, sounds precede true words. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to continue to talk to them using real words everyday; it just means that you are going to model and wait for sounds at least some of the time during play, rather than modeling and expecting words. Sounds can be anything from a true belly laugh in kids who don’t even make a sound when they are being tickled, to animal and car sounds during play with toys, to giddy sounds such as “wheeeeeeee” on the swing and slide, or “ooh yucky” when she dislikes something, or “ooops” when you pretend to drop her during roughhousing. Almost all nonverbal, quiet children first begin to imitate and produce these kinds of sounds before words are heard. If your child can say a few of these kinds of sounds, try to expand to other sound effect words during play and daily routines. Usually a kid needs to be noisy before he can talk.

If your child can already produce a variety of sounds, then start to model simple, familiar, single words. Target “power” words so that he can immediately use them to make something happen in his world. Model names for favorite foods, toys, and people over and over and over again so that he can hear the word many, many, many times in the course of the day. Again, if he’s not saying many words, you need to keep most of the things you say to him at the single word level. For example, when you’re playing ball, don’t say, “Do you want to play soccer with me? Mommy is going to kick this soccer ball to you right now. You better get yourself ready to kick it back! Are you ready?” Try saying, “Ball?? Kick ball. Ooooh – Ball.” See the difference??

On the flip side of this, when your child is using mostly words and phrases to communicate, stop with the “gitchee, gitchee, goo” and stick to real words most of the time, except for the endearing little rituals you’ll want to persist in doing until they roll their eyes and tell you frankly, “Enough of that already!”

4. Repetition is the mother of skill. Or as your mother would have said, “Practice makes perfect.”

Not to bore you with a discussion of neuroscience, but a baby’s brain must “practice” how to say something many times before the pathway is truly activated and it becomes easy. Think back to learning how to drive a car. In the beginning you had to concentrate on each little movement. You had to think almost out-loud: Adjust the seat, put your seat-belt on, put the key it, turn the ignition, put the car in reverse, No Wait – look in the mirror behind me, etc… Now you can drive, talk on your phone, and scarf down what’s left of your toddler’s chicken nuggets all at the same time. It became automatic. Until your little one has said any word several times and truly “learned it,” he has to rehearse. This is why some kids, especially late talkers, and especially in the initial phases of learning to talk, are overheard babbling or saying a new word again and again in their cribs or car-seats when no one is listening or there’s no real purpose in the repetition. (I must interject a cute story here. I have one little guy on my caseload who is just beginning to try to produce 2-word phrases.  I always carry snacks in my therapy bag to entice my little friends to ask me for things they really want, and let’s face it, food works better than anything with most of us, not just two-year-olds! This particular little friend loves my cheese balls. His mother is a pediatrician and quite naturally does not routinely offer her children vile foods such as this. He, however, has become obsessed. His mother told me that she has heard him on the monitor practicing, “Ball ball.” Then a pause as if he’s thinking, No, that’s not it. “Ball cheese.” Another pause… No, that’s not it either. And then he said,”Cheese ball!”)

New talkers, particularly those with verbal motor planning problems, or apraxia, can sometimes pop out a word once and then never again.  This is because the “pathway” for the word has not yet been established in their little brains. To help this process along, try to get them to repeat new words?several times; don’t just settle for once! This works best when a toddler actually has to “use” the word in a functional way, and not just repeat it because Mommy asks him. Chances are if you are reading this, your child can’t imitate words well anyway, so stick to the purposeful activity. For example, if his new word is car, collect every Hot Wheels car you can get your hands on, devise a long ramp with a piece of wood on the side of a table, and then have him ask you for “car”one at a time to roll down the track. If his new word is cookie, don’t hand him 3 or 4 cookies on a plate for snack time. Break each cookie and make him ask you for each little piece. This kind of technique works because it creates opportunities for repetitive practice.

5. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s the only way most of us learn anything.

If your child is not able to repeat or imitate sounds or words, you need to begin with having him try to imitate actions. Try to copy his actions and then wait for him to respond. When he slaps the tray on the high chair, smack it back. If he holds a ball in each hand and bangs them together, you do the same. If he jumps, jump. If he yawns, yawn. When he laughs, laugh. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Set aside several short times everyday to imitate all of your child’s vocalizations, even if he can’t yet imitate yours. Match your pitch, loudness, volume, and sounds to his as closely as you can. This technique, called vocal synchrony, can be found in Pamela Marshalla’s short and easy to read book “Becoming Verbal with Childhood Apraxia.”

Learning to imitate is absolutely essential to learning to talk. Another way to work on this is to model words or sounds you’ve heard your child say in order to teach him to imitate you. In all of my initial assessments I ask mom and dad for a list of words or sounds their toddler says. Sometimes it’s none, but usually a toddler has a couple of words he tries to say. I model these words in the session, usually by giving him a choice during play since this kind of request is best to facilitate a response. Since he or she can already say these words, the theory is that it’s easier for him to be able to imitate what he can already do rather than a new word. Once your child can consistently imitate words he already says, he can usually make the jump to imitating new words more easily than if you started with new ones.

(Since writing this post in 2008, I’ve written a whole book about teaching a child to imitate! Check that out – Building Verbal Imitation Skills in Toddlers. If you’re an SLP or therapist and you want a more academic discussion, the information is available in a course format on DVD with CEUs at this link Steps to Building Verbal Imitation in Toddlers on DVD.)

6. Use a sing-song voice, or parentese, when modeling words for your child to imitate.

Since I’m from the deep South and am a bit musical and dramatic most of the time, this is not a stretch for me at all. Most of us southern girls have that melodic drawl naturally. (This has been a little scary for some parents when I meet them for the first time. The really bold ones who have transferred in from states far away from Kentucky will even ask, “She’s not going to end up sounding like you, is she???”) Research tells us that parents around the world use this kind of speech pattern with their young babies. We all raise our voices several octaves when speaking to a newborn. This practice is still very effective for toddlers who aren’t yet speaking. Again researchers would tell us it’s because little brains like patterns and rhythmicity. Don’t feel like you have to speak this way all day. My own children, now 11, 16, and 18, ask me not to talk in my “therapy voice.” However, when you are modeling a word for your baby to try to imitate, overemphasize the vowels and exaggerate the syllables. For Mommy, try “Mooooo-mmyyyyyy” with your voice going up then falling down.

This is also a very effective technique when children are beginning to learn to combine words into two-word phrases. Again use the up-down intonation.

7. Balance the lead during interactions.

Since many language experts have suggested that adults follow a child’s lead during interactions, some parents and therapists have mistakenly believed that an adult should never choose an activity. This is simply not the best strategy to employ all the time because once again you may find yourself doing nothing but running around and chasing a kid without accomplishing much of anything. (I know of one therapist who spent several weeks during sessions just following a kid around the perimeter of a room and imitated him tapping furniture. Imitating him for a few minutes is one thing, but spending the majority of a session like this for several weeks in a row without accomplishing a role shift so that he imitated her or at least became more interested in her?? This kind of following a kid’s lead is ineffective.) I usually follow a child’s interest during therapy sessions by offering two acceptable choices and then letting him pick what we do. For example, I might hold a toy in each hand and ask, “Choo-choo or?bubbles?” If a child can’t verbally tell me which one he needs, I might prompt him with a sign (more about that later in this post), or let him gesture by pointing, looking, or in some cases, wrestling it away from me, to indicate his choice. If a kid routinely obsesses about a certain toy and doesn’t want to give it up or won’t let me join in, I don’t offer that choice at all or I save it until the end of a session when I want to talk to mom. This way he still gets to play with his preferred toy, but I dictate when.

When a child begins to tire with an activity, even if it’s just after a couple of minutes, I start to transition to a new activity by singing Barney’s infamous “Clean Up Song.” It would be better to move on before I’m quite ready than to lose him altogether. If I know that a child hates books, I don’t insist that we look at more than a page or two (Or more often than not, none!) during a session. In my mind, this is what the experts mean by following a child’s lead. Don’t risk accomplishing nothing by following, or even leading, the entire time.

8. Withhold pieces of a toy, a snack, or anything else a kid needs to complete a preferred task, and wait.

This technique is similiar to environmental sabotage. When you are trying to set up a situation to entice a kid to talk, never, ever, ever give him all the pieces of anything at once. For example, if your kid likes to complete puzzles, don’t place all the pieces on the floor and let him put them in on his terms. Place the puzzle board and all of the pieces in a large zip-lock bag (I buy the 2.5 gallon size in bulk!). Have him first choose between doing the puzzle or another toy. Then have him tell you how to get the puzzle out by saying “zip” or “open.” Then let him indicate which piece he wants in his most sophisticated response possible by either telling you, signing, or pointing. When he’s finished the puzzle, don’t just let him walk away. Have him help you put away the pieces, again one at a time. If you are working on comprehension, ask him, “Where’s the _____?” and have him place the piece in the bag. Again, don’t settle for simply finding the correct piece. Have him tell you what’s he’s found or at least say “Bye bye” to each piece as it’s placed in the bag. When you are finished, have him zip the bag again saying ”zip” or “close” and then finally, “All done.”

9. Use signs, gestures, or pictures to introduce him to the power of communication.

There are lots of programs on the market today to teach parents how to use sign language with their babies. Research supports this technique and has proven that some children may learn to speak more quickly by using signs than if they had not. The reasons are two-fold. First of all, speech is a motor movement, and pairing another gesture with a word is a powerful combination. This aids in motor planning, or helping his little brain establish the neural pathway for the word. Secondly, it reduces the frustration level for everyone involved. Let’s face it, with a late talker in the house, everyone is more than a little frustrated. Signing gives a way for your child to communicate his basic wants and needs in an acceptable way rather than the alternatives, namely grunting, whining, or screaming.

Here comes the part I just love about signs. We can’t make a kid talk (Goodness knows I’ve tried!), but we can make him, or at least help him, use signs. Many parents tell me that they have tried sign language with their kids unsuccessfully. By this they mean that they have modeled the signs many times, but their baby hasn’t attempted to use the sign himself. Once I show them my solution, they wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Take your child’s hands and help him perform the sign. Some tactile sensitive and defensive toddlers may balk at first, but if you keep trying this in a happy, upbeat way, and then immediately reward him with the thing he’s requested with signs, he usually quits resisting and catches on pretty quickly.

There are some children who don’t have the motor or cognitive skills to be able to sign. There are some kids who just plain hate it. There are some children who just don’t get it because they don’t understand the symbolic nature of signs (or speech for that matter). For those kids I try pictures. There’s a specific program I use called the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that teaches children to trade pictures for objects they want. It’s a very systematic program, and it should be implemented in exactly the way it was designed to be most effective. Look for a later post about this, search the Internet for it, or ask your speech-language pathologist to help determine if this is a good match for your child. Initially it was designed for kids with autism, but now it’s widely used for kids with all kinds of reasons for a language delay. The point is to teach a child to learn to initiate requests so they learn that through communication, they control their worlds. This is powerful stuff no matter what method you’re using.

Some parents are afraid that their children won’t learn to talk if they are given the option of signing or using a picture. I have never seen this happen in all of my career. Children are not born “stubborn,””lazy,” or simply “choose” not to talk. Most of the time, there’s a reason we can suspect is the cause for a language delay, and although we may never know for sure, I am very certain that it’s not that a child is choosing to subject himself to the pain of not being able to communicate. When kids can talk, they do talk. When they can learn whatever skill has been missing, the words do come. Until then, doesn’t it make sense to give them another way to let you know what they want?? I have had a few families initially hesitate in teaching signs or using pictures, and thankfully I have always been able to talk them into it after a few more exhausting weeks with a frustrated toddler. There are certainly some favorite signs that a child may hold onto for months after he has begun to say words, but signs usually disappear pretty quickly when a kid finally discovers his voice. There are other ways a talented therapist can help you and/or your kid kick the habit once he and you are ready, but this is rarely needed.

On the other hand, I will occasionally have a mother who wholeheartedly embraces signing and might say to me, “He is saying the word, but he won’t sign it.” After I stare at her for a minute or two, they usually grin and say, “Oh. I get it.” We teach the sign to get the word. Talking is the overall objective.

10. Establish verbal rituals and repeat them at the same times every day.

Remember the earlier advice about repetition? This is the same concept  When you create little games or say the same things at the same time over and over, day after day, your little one’s brain begins to expect it as part of a routine. Sometimes your toddler will even “pop out” a word you normally would say without even meaning to do this. That’s when we know that language is in there, and we just have to get it out. You can help this happen by purposefully planning to use the same words and phrases in your daily routines. Try to also stick with the same intonation (sing-song) patterns so again his brain picks up on the rhythm and timing. If you’re not too creative, try using the same songs and reading the same short books every day. When you have used the phrase or song for a long time, start to pause and wait for your child to fill in the last word of a line. For example, try singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” every night as you look out the window as part of your night-time routine. After several weeks, pause after singing, “Twinkle, twinkle little …….” and look expectantly toward your child for him to fill-in “star” or his own version of this word. Or you might practice waving bye-bye to all the people, pets, and whatever else you choose in your home as you leave. Be sure to build the routine by saying, “Say bye-bye to ________. Pause. Bye-bye (as you wave). Say bye-bye to ________. Pause. Bye-bye. Say bye-bye to ______. Pause and wait for him to fill-in his own “bye bye.”

Some parents like to try counting items as a routine. This is fine, but I usually prefer to label things instead of saying number for new talkers. Instead of counting a row of puppies in a book, I say, “Dog, dog, dog, dog,” as I point to each picture. Help your child begin to point as you label the items. After several days or a couple of weeks doing this, don’t label the last one and wait for him to say it. This would also be good to use when sorting socks, setting the table, or any kind of repetitive household activity. Look the patterns and use them.

While I have other tricks up my sleeve to help toddlers talk, these are the most effective ones and easiest ones for parents to implement. I welcome your comments as you try these with your children at home.

Listen to my podcast about this post!

m4s0n501

Comments

  1. says

    I care for my 21 month old grandson 4 days a week while parents work. We are all concerned because he isn’t saying any words. We talk to him, and play with him, and he communicates with us and understands everything we say, but he will only grunt and point or use other body language to communicate. He follows directions and is playful, loving and happy, and interested in everything we are doing and wants to learn and do it all. He has lots of talk and play toys that he likes also. He just won’t talk. I am trying to get him to say the word for what he wants, or repeat it back to me but he refuses. I don’t make a big deal about it and don’t want to make him unhappy about not talking, but still we are concerned. While we try not to compare them, we wonder why his 5 year old brother began talking at a few months, yet the younger son isn’t trying at all at going on two. I know he will learn eventually, but we are concerned that he may need speech therapy if it continues. We are trying to get him to realize that he can use his tongue to make words and sounds. We play games with our tongues and sounds even, but he doesn’t seem to get the connection or care. Any suggestions?

  2. Laura says

    Bonnie – Thanks so much for your questions! You sound like a wonderful, caring grandmother! I have a few grandmas who think it’s normal for kids not to talk until they are 2 (or even 3!), so I am so excited that you are on the ball and are concerned about your little grandson. He and his parents are so blessed to have you!

    As for other ideas you can do at home – try using sign language with him so that he gets the idea that he has to DO something VERY SPECIFIC to get what he wants. This is different from pointing and grunting since you’ll teach him signs to represent specific words. Click on the category Sign Language to read more about why research tells us this is a good idea as well as how to get started using signs at home.

    Since it sounds like he’s not trying to imitate words or sounds yet, try the ideas listed under the post titled, “Help! My Child Won’t Imitate Words.” Some kids can’t or won’t start imitating words until they can imitate other gestures and sounds. If I were seeing him on my caseload, these are the first things I would do.

    If these ideas don’t help, and since you’re all worried, please don’t hesitate to have him evaluated by your state’s early intervention program and/or a pediatric speech-language pathologist who specializes in working with kids under 3. Every state has an early intervention program since it’s required by federal law. To find out about your state, you could do an Internet search with your state’s name and the words “Early Intervention.” Usually the evaluation to determine if there’s a delay is free, and usually parents can refer their own children for an evaluation.

    I wish you all the best of luck in finding things that work for your little guy! Let me know if there’s any other information you’d like to see on this site! Laura

  3. jayne says

    I am a carer for a little boy who was 2 this month (feb 09_)He understands everything you say to him, he is happy when with me, however he will not speak at all, he won’t make any sound, he will not respond to questions He has been with me for a year. I do know that he can speak and knows some words as I heard him once say ‘go away’ to another little boy I look after. His parents say he says words at home and they are not concerned, however I am. He will also not respond to anyone that we meet, or that we mix with on a regular basis, the little girl that has been with me and him for over a year cannot get him to respond to her and is always talking to him but gets no response which I find quite sad.
    Someone else I know who is a family friend of the little boy have looked after him and say he is exactly the same with her she has never heard him speak and that he stands with his head down when left.

    I know if I was his mom and it was brought up that he is not speaking or making sounds away from me and my family that it would concern me.

    Any ideas would be greatfully received.

  4. Laura says

    Jayne – You’re in a tough situation here! It doesn’t sound like his parents are concerned. You could try to kindly and gently bring this up again pointing out that most children are talking by their second birthdays. You could ask if the pediatrician is concerned, but my guess is that if the parents aren’t worried, the pediatrician probably doesn’t even know there could be a problem.

    Please read ideas here on the website to use with him to help him want to communicate with you. High energy play usually goes a long way with little boys (and girls!). Look at the older articles in the expressive language section. You could try to introduce some simple sign language too, and again, read the ideas in the articles in that section here on the website.

    Good luck to you, especially as you tackle this difficult and sensitive topic with his parents. It’s unusual that he’s not communicating with you since you are his primary caregiver, and that’s probably how I would start the conversation with his parents. Ask for their ideas with how to get him started – including a list of words he says with them regularly. It could be this exercise alone will help them see that he’s not using words as well as they would like. Hope these ideas help! Laura

  5. Jenny says

    My 26 month old talks a lot but is hard to understand her we speak both Spanish and English to her. She has problems with the L,saying words like Car, or in Spanish carro and all the C words I noticed. How can I help her get better? Thanks

  6. Meghan says

    My daughter is 18 months old and was 5 weeks early. She says random words like ball, momma, dada, and she say’s oh boy lol..But her pedi says she should be saying at least 20 words clearly, and she babbles all the time and trys to repeat what I say but she can’t really. I don’t know if I should be concerned or if she is developing normally.. I will try using the techniques you mentioned and I am going to set out time every day after work to just sit and play with her. I didn’t know if you had any extra idea’s as to what I should do with her. thank you so much!
    Meghan

  7. Laura says

    Meghan – This site is FULL of ideas for you to help her at home. Keep reading!! Check out articles in the expressive language section. You may want to take a look at Teach Me To Talk the DVD too! Laura

  8. Robin says

    Hi Laura – Thanks so much for all this great information on your website!
    I have a question about the imitating words, however. My son is 32 months old and just this past month went from having a few animal sounds to probably about 50 words (!) We have him using approximations, so blue is boo and blow is bow but I imitate it back to him just as he said it out of excitement that he’s even saying the word. I guess I’ve thought that would increase his confidence and increase his amount of verbalization. Should I be repeating it back correctly once they’re words that he’s already said? Also, if I try to prompt him saying a word, like ‘blue’, should I say it correctly or as his approximation?
    Thanks!

  9. Laura says

    Robin – Thanks for your question and for sharing your great news about your son’s recent language explosion! Congratulations!
    There’s a whole therapy approach based on teaching late talkers or children with motor planning problems to use word approximations/modifications in an effort to help them talk at all, so you’ve done a good job and haven’t done anything “wrong” at all. I would continue to model words BOTH ways for him – pairing his approximation with the adult model. Of course he’s going to still hear the adult version (because probably no one but you is modeling it “his way”), but if I were you, I’d still probably say it BOTH ways since you’re likely the adult he hears talk most often, therefore, his primary language model. Again – congratulations on all of your recent successes!! Laura

  10. Jane says

    Hi

    I just wanted to let the world know my nearly 14 year old with severe expressive language disorder, apraxia and motor planning difficulties is finally talking. Difficult to understand but definitely talking. Not just the odd word but whole sentences and paragraphs. It’s really happened for him in the last year. His reading age improved by 18 months in 1 academic year. He’d only been gaining at 3 months per year previously.

    The message is don’t give up. Its hard work but even at this late stage you can get real improvements.

    Best wishes
    Jx

  11. Brittany Norbury says

    Laura,
    I am encouraged by your ideas and advice and am also looking forward to watching your dvd. My son just turned four and constantly babbles but has no words and does not understand simple instructions.In your experience is the babbling a good sign and when he finds his words does the conception and understanding follow? I am so discouraged and the older he gets the more agitated and frusterated he becomes due to his inability to communicate.
    Any specific advice or insight you have for my situation would be greatly appreciated. My son has been in speech therapy for over a year and a half and has made little to no progress. Thank you, Brittany

  12. Laura says

    Brittany – Thanks so much for your comment. From how you’re describing your son, I think specifically working on his receptive language, or how he understands words and simple directions, is what I’d focus on in therapy and at home. If he’s still mostly babbling at 4, he has a severe delay, and he’s most likely not talking since the words don’t mean anything to him yet.

    I’d love it if you’d write back with what/how your SLP works with him and the recommendations she gives you to do with him as well. Are you working with him everyday at home? Are you using signs and pictures as well? Give me more info and I’ll be glad to help with more specific recommendations.

    As far as the DVDs go, based on what you’ve said about your son, I’d recommend that you start with Teach Me To Listen and Obey 1 since this covers basic receptive language strategies, then move to Teach Me To Talk. I’ll also tell you that the 25% off Christmas coupon is set to expire, so hurry to get that great deal, especially if you’re ordering two DVDs. Thanks again for your question and let me know how else I can help you. Laura

  13. Olivia says

    Hi Laura. My son turned 24 months in November 09. He understands everything you say and he is very articulate and witty. He evens tries and sometimes succeeds at outsmarting my 4 year old in their activiites. He just does not speak. He tries very muchto say what he wants but it just comes out as ba ba. Everythign is baba. He can say mama, dada, baba, car (caa), alex (ale), cow (caa, no (naa), truck (ta). essentially the only vowel he uses is the long and short a sounds. For every other words an dsentences he just hums. so he hums alot most times I understand what he wants but when i don’t he tries and tries to hum but cannot get it across and eventually gets very frustrated. I feel very hopeful after reading your page and hope that you can point to some speciifc ideas for his situation. Based on all I have read here I am sure now that I should be doing a whole lot more at home and would like to try. Your further help would be GREATLY appreciated. I am anxiously awaiting your reply.

  14. Laura says

    Olivia – I highly recommend that you have him evaluated by your state’s early intervention program since based on what you’ve said, he could have an expressive language delay and/or speech disorder. By 24 months a child should be able to use at least 50 different words and use 2 word phrases frequently, and he should be using lots of different vowel sounds and many consonant sounds. He very likely will qualify for speech therapy through this program. In all states the evaluation is free, and services are free or low cost, or certainly cheaper than if you were paying out of pocket on your own. To find out more information you can Google your state’s name plus the phrase “early intervention.”

    In the meantime read the articles here on the website, especially those in the categories expressive language, intelligiblity, and even those in the apraxia section. They will give you ways to work with him. If you need more help or are curious what a pediatric speech-language pathologist does to help a toddler learn how to improve speech and language skills during play, check out my DVDs by clicking the buttons in the right-handed column. Start with Teach Me To Talk since you’ll learn the basic strategies there. Hope the ideas here on the site or on the DVDs will help you!! Laura

  15. Olivia says

    Laura
    Thanks for your quick reply. My husband and I read your response and we are happy for your advice. I am not in the USA, I am in the Caribbean so I will try to see if I can find the services of a paediatric speech pathologist over here.

    I am also going to purcahse the dvd as you recommended. I have seen the clips and they look very stimulating. I have sent you and email to request the link so I can purchase the dvd. Thanks again and I will definitely keep you updatred as soon as I receive the dvd.

  16. Per says

    Hi Laura.

    My son is 26 months now. He understands everything you say to him and can say several words such as car, mum, dad, egg, book, ball. My wife and I are in the special situation, that we speak three languages at home (I’m Danish, my wife is Chinese and we speak English together). Most of the words he can say, he can say in all three languages. On top of that, we are living in a French speaking country and he goes to French day care. When we had our son, we heard and read that multi-lingual kids learn to speak later than mono-lingual kids, so we haven’t been that concerned about his language development so far. He also understands most of what we say to him (in all three languages). However, he is not learning new words every day or week even, but sometimes he surprises us with a new word.

    We haven’t tried specifically to ‘push’ him to talk or played games designed to teach him to talk apart from using easy language (“play ball?”, “read book?” etc.). We have been more focused on being consistent in using the same language when speaking with him (My wife uses Chinese, I use Danish and when we all three are together we speak English).

    Do you think we should be worried about his language development? Should we start to focus on language learning specifically (by using some of the things on this website for example)?

  17. Jenna says

    Hi Laura,

    My son is going to turn 3 in one week, and although he can say many many words, and use some simple 2-3 word sentences, and ask for things (simply though- “Milk, please”).. I am very concerned that he is not talking in full sentences. Should he be? I see other children younger than he is, speaking in complete sentences and I worry greatly that he is behind. I also will try repetitive phrases, or questions, with him, such as “What is your name?” and he never answers correctly. I complete the answer every time. Then I repeat the question hoping he will answer it, but he doesn’t. Usually when I ask a question he will repeat my exact words. Is this a normal stage, or is there anything I can do to help him in this area?

    He does follow simple instructions I give him, and I know he understands me most of the time.. Also, my husband and I have even spelled out words in front of him, such as “c-a-r” (his favorite thing), and he will say the word after we spell it out. So I know that he is an intelligent little guy, I just am worrying myself so much over his not talking in sentences. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much.

  18. Laura says

    Per – As you’ve noted children who are raised in bilingual homes speak later than other children. Since he’s understanding you consistently, I’d not really be too concerned just yet. However, I would probably start to “push” for words a little harder so that you set the expectation for him to talk. You can use the ideas here on the website to help you get started with that. Also take a look at the DVD clips for more specific ways to work with him. Laura

  19. Laura says

    Jenna – By 36 months children should be using 4-5 word sentences. He should also be answering familiar questions by now too. Sometimes kids appear to have an expressive language delay, when there could also be an underlying language comprehension or auditory processing problem. I would go ahead and have him evaluated by a speech-language pathologist to rule out anything more serious than a language delay. If he does appear to have processing problems, you’ll want to know that now so that you can find ways to work with him and head off any academic problems. I don’t mean to scare you, and of course, I haven’t SEEN him, so it could just be that he needs a little jump start with language. You won’t know unless you have him assessed. In the meantime you can use ideas here on the website to work with him at home. Laura

  20. Jenna says

    Laura,

    Thank you so much for your quick response, I will definitely have him evaluated. I will also try to work with him at home using ideas you have on the website, thank you for so many free tips!! I appreciate it. :)

    –Jenna

  21. Christine says

    Laura,
    My son is almost 19 months old and was born 8 weeks early. He babbles but there are no real “words” happening. He does all the other stuff…pointing for what he wants, going to what he wants, but, no talking yet. So, we tried signing. We’ve consistantly used signs for food, water, milk, and more. He REFUSES to use them. We do make the signs with his hands and he throws himself into a tantrum. We’re lost. Suggestions???

  22. Laura says

    Christine – I hate it when this happens! Since he’s gets communicative intent, just keep trying to entice him to sign and talk, but with no pressure to perform. If helping him sets him off, then don’t do it. I also highly recommend junk foods to help him be more motivated to try to sign! I also would suggest that you do everything you can to make it fun, fun, fun for him. Have you checked out my DVD clips? Sometimes making it totally over the top playful helps a kid move past his initial resistance. I like this question so much that Kate and I are going to talk about it tomorrow on my podcast. Listen in for more ideas! Laura

  23. Monisha says

    Hi Laura,
    I am in need of help and guidance. My son in 22 months old. He keeps blabberring all the time with expressions but speaks very few concrete words. The words he says so far is Amma (meaning mother), bye, fun (for pen) and datt(for Dog).
    We always keep showing him apple,ball and rest of the things but he never repeats it. Whenever we see a baby in TV or picture we mention baby and he will just make a sweet sound simiar to the tone we said baby but doesnt say the word “baby”.
    He doesnt look at us when we repeat the words or point at objects. Otherwise he is a very happy kid ,playing and running around. I am working and my son is well taken care by my mother. What should we do? How do I help him with speech. I am little concerned.

  24. Laura says

    Monisha – How is he following directions? Does he run to the bathroom when you say it’s time for a bath? Does he head for the door when you tell him it’s time to go outside? Understanding language must come before he begins to use words, so I’d be interested to know how he’s comprehendng what’s said to him.

    How does he let you know what he wants? Is he gesturing or pointing to show you what he needs? Is he waving bye bye? Does he clap when he hears clapping or when he likes something? Using gestures is an important pre-cursor for language development too.

    There’s lots of info here on the website for ideas to work with him at home. You may also want to check out my DVDs since then you can SEE how to work with him at home to facilitate imitation of words.

    If he doesn’t begin to make progress with the new things you do at home with him and ESPECIALLY if he’s not understanding your verbal directions, then I’d definitely recommend that you have him evaluated by your state’s early intervention program. You can get more info by doing a Google search of your state’s name and the phrase “early intervention.”

    Good luck and let me know how he progresses! Laura

  25. Catherine says

    My husband and I are worried about our little boy who is 2 1/2 years old. He understands when we tell him that we are going out or to go upstairs as it is time for a bath, he takes us to the kitchen and to the exact cupboard when he needs anything. He doesnt speak though, he does babble which sounds like talking just not clear words and in bed we can hear him whispering and talking the same way to himself. what is worrying is that he could say about 5 different words when he was about a year and a half and now he doesnt say any. he is very affectionate, kissing and has eye contact. mixes with other children. Can you help? thank you.

  26. Laura says

    Catherine – I’d strongly, strongly, strongly recommend that you have him evaluated by your state’s early intervention program. You can find out more info by Googling your state name and the phrase early intervention.

    While it’s good that he’s following some directions, he should understand much more than you describe. For example, he should be able to follow two-step directions consistently such as, “Get your cup and put it in the sink.” or “Go get your shoes and wait by the door so we can go outside.”

    By 2 1/2 years old, he should use hundreds of words and be consistently speaking in 3 word phrases and short sentences. What you’re describing sounds like jargon, on unintelligible, phrase length speech. This is considered “normal” when a child is between 1 1/2 to just before a child turns 2, not well after age 2.

    In the meantime please continue reading ideas here on the website to learn how to help him at home. You may also want to check out the DVDs Teach Me To Listen and Obey 1 and 2 as well as Teach Me To Talk. You and your husband can SEE how to work with him at home and can get going with “treatment” even before he can get evaluated.

    Thanks for your question. Good luck to all of you. Laura

  27. says

    I have a 32month old daughter who is simply wonderful. She had some speech delay and at 25months, we got involved with the “Early Intervention” and she has made significant strides. At 25months, she only was saying “Daddy” and “Hi” and now she has over 500 words and can even read some phrases (at least 50 to include; elephant, sleeping, monkeyy…e.t.c) She is also using some simple sentences and can ask for what her basic needs her. She sings most of the nusery ryhmes and her teacher has been very impressed with her. She has been doing so well that she only sees her about once a month or so.. Well, last week, we decided to have a speech therapist come out and test her out and she did really well on her speech, cognitive but for the receptive language, she is still scoring at 22months. The therapist showed her a number of pictures and asked her questions like: What do we cut paper with?, What do we do with a cup? Show me mommy’s shirt, “Give me a block and put some over there”….. Anyway, she couuldn’t do any of those because I don’t think she understands what she was asked. She definitely will say to me, “Mommy, I want a drink” but can’t answer what we do with a cup.

    Also, if you ask her simple questions, she doesn’t answer “yes or no” but can express a need. Does this make sense. Which of your DVD will you recommend for this.. She is very eager to learn, knows her ABCs, 1-20 and like I said can read. She just started preschool and I was told she is quite stubborn there too, but I think it is because she doesn’t understand. Please let me know which DVD we can buy to help us understand what is going on. Thanks for your help in advance.

  28. Laura says

    Lolly – Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so happy that your daughter is now talking, and I share your joy in her progress.

    However, a receptive language delay is often an indicator for persistent difficulties. I am so glad that you recognize that she is having difficulty processing what’s said to her, not only when she was being tested, but more importantly, in her every day life. While she has some definite strengths, not consistently understanding what others say is a huge challenge in real life. Many times children with these kinds of difficulties do appear “stubborn” at school, but like you’ve said, it’s really that she’s just not understanding what her teacher asks her to do. That’s a very different issue than being “disobedient” or “bad.” The DVD that would help you learn how to target these kinds of skills at home is Teach Me To Listen and Obey 2. I would also highly recommend that she continue with speech therapy to address those receptive lags.

    Lolly, let me also add in the kindest way that I can, that some of the expressive things you note that she can do are things that may also turn out to be red flags. While there’s been a recent push for early reading, reading as a toddler, particularly when other developmental milestones have NOT been met such as UNDERSTANDING what you’re reading is actually called “hyperlexia.” This term is most often associated with children who may go on to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. While I can’t see your daughter and in no way, shape, or form am insinuating that I can diagnose what’s going on with her, it would be a concern for me, in light of her receptive language delays. Children who are able to quote (or sing) longer passages(or songs) without understanding much of what they say are often diagnosed with “echolalia,” which is again most ofen associated with autism spectrum disorder. Again, I cannot see your sweet little girl, so I certainly am not in a position to make any assumptions about her, but it would not be fair to you if I didn’t point out these things. Did the SLP who evaluated her or her other teacher discuss any of these differences with you? It may be because they haven’t seen any other characteristics that would make them concerned about this, and if that’s the case, then certainly trust what professionals who have actually SEEN her think. But again, the reason I provide info on this site is to help educate readers. Chances are, even if this doesn’t pertain to your little girl, some other mom or dad at some other time will be helped by reading this response.

    Let me urge you to follow up with someone who can SEE her and discuss the issues you’ve noted. I am always really concerned about a child when expressive skills exceed receptive skills, especially when the gap is greater than 6 months. At this stage in typical development, most children understand at least a little more than they can say, so to see the pattern reversed is a concern.

    Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with. Your little girl is so blessed to have a mom who’s out looking for additional ways to help her. Good luck to you and your daughter, and keep us updated on her progress. Laura

  29. Christine says

    Hi Laura,
    Since I emailed awhile ago, my son has started using a LOT of sign language. He is still only “saying” 1 word but using that one word for several different objects. He will be 2 in a few days but was born 8 weeks early. His receptive langauge is good. He can follow 2 step directions, name 11 body parts on himself and others, he really does seem to “understand” most of what we say.

    My question, I guess, is, do his signs “count” in terms of word use? We read he should know so many words by this and that age, but, does signing count? He can currently sign 8 words. Does that count as speaking 8 words?

    Thanks so much!

  30. Laura says

    Christine – I am going to answer your question on the podcsst this Sunday at 6 pm eastern time. Listen in for a response. Laura

  31. Antrice says

    My child is 32 mts He started walking at 10 mts crawling at 6 mts. His sister is developing fast, but I’m concern with his speech. When I tell him to go do something he does it. He loves to learn he loves writing an drawing, but he doesn’t ask for anything. He only says about five words we play games with him. I just bought the Your Baby Can Read series to see will that help. Whenever I put the DVD in he knows how to point to his eye and say eye. He interact with the DVD, still its only simple words he get. I want to cry sometimes wanting him to talk to me, his concentration is so short. I want to call his doctor about it, but I tried to teach him first, but now I really need help with him!!

  32. Laura says

    Antrice – If you’re in the USA, you can get him evaluated by a speech-language pathologist in your state’s early intervention program, but don’t wait to do this because the program ends on a child’s 3rd birthday. However, then children transfer to their local public school systems for speech therapy. Don’t be intimidated by the process since therapy is (or should be!) FUN for toddlers and you’ll learn how to work with him at home to faciltate those words. The SLP will hopefully also be able to rule out any other contributing factors besides the speech-language delay. Treating late talking is critical since academic success is dependent on a child’s ability to understand and use language to learn and to socialize with others.

    In the meantime, read the ideas here on the website for helping him. You should also take a look at my DVD Teach Me To Talk so you can SEE how speech-language pathologists work with toddlers to help them learn to talk. Good luck, and let us know it goes. Laura

  33. says

    Laura,

    I’m beyond grateful to have found your sight. Our son is 17 months and is an absolute JOY. He’s a very sweet, “chill” little guy. He has shown delays in many areas. He’s been evaluated by a county organization. Here are some examples so you can see the whole picture.

    1. GROSS MOTOR – he’s not walking yet (took his first steps last week on his tip toes) and has been in PT for “toe walking” weekly for the last six weeks. He can crawl up & down stairs without help.

    2. FINE MOTOR – he can’t stack blocks (& has no desire to – he’d rather bang them together)! He can put toys into a basket or truck. He can eat with a fork and spoon but has trouble scooping & usually abandons the tools & uses his hands. He can drink with a cup but doesn’t have it mastered and still spills a lot.

    He’s within range for Cognitive but within range “with caution” for Adaptive and Personal-social.

    He’s out of range in receptive and expressive communication (based on an evaluation done in January). We’re still waiting to hear from the speech therapist who is to be working with him. I’ve been busy looking for any resources I can to work with him because I’m recognizing that the help just isn’t there in the way I thought it’d be. So I’m committed to (and have the luxury of being at home with him) working with him daily.

    In terms of communication, our son is very verbal and he frequently uses hand gestures as he makes sounds. The only word he says and seems to understand is “mama”. He shakes his head “no” (but I don’t know if he understands). He can point but doesn’t to show me anything or to any body parts, etc. We’ve been working with teaching him sign for many months but it’s hard to know whether he understands or not. He’s used the signs for “all done”, “more”, “milk” and “orange” but we can’t tell if he understands what he’s doing or not as he is very inconsistent and is typically prompted by us. His primary way of getting what he wants is through whining or crying. My struggle is knowing how long to work with him before giving him what he wants. I’ve tried helping him sign and then giving him the item right away and I’ve also tried holding back and waiting for him to sign all the while doing the sign, singing songs about the sign, ANYTHING I can think of to make it fun and encourage him. Sometimes he’ll eventually do it but often times gets frustrated and cries. Then I typically give him what he wants. This has been a difficult area for me to discern because I’ve seen him do the signs in the right context – could it have been chance? I want to help him and push him but I don’t want to discourage him. Do you have suggestions?

    The other thing we’ve noticed is that he doesn’t imitate us. We’ve been doing finger plays with him for several months (1-2/day) and in the last couple weeks have started doing 10-15/day with him. I appreciate your advice regarding tips for encouraging imitation and we’ll be using those. Based on what I’ve written do you have any other suggestions?

    Once again, THANK YOU! It helps us so much to have resources and practical things we can do with our son to help him. This can be a very lonely and confusing place for parents and a frustrating place for little ones. So thank you for giving us TOOLS!

    Best regards-

  34. Laura says

    JB – Thanks for your questions about your little boy. I’m so glad you’re getting speech therapy services for him. In the meantime, read through the articles here on the website for ideas for working with him.

    I also do a weekly podcast here on the site so you can listen for new ideas for how to work with him. Click on the blogtalkradio icon in the column on the right side of this page at the top. I like your question so much that I will probably use it on an upcoming episode. We already have the show planned for this week, but maybe in 2 Sundays. If you’d like to call in and ask your own question, we’d love it!

    The guideline for signs is to cue the sign 3-5x then give the item anyway. Children who have difficulty learning to sign can have receptive language delays meaning that he’s not understanding what you want him to do and hasn’t linked meaning with the sign/word yet. Or he may have motor planning/coordination problems so that signing is difficult because of the motor movements. Some children have both problems.

    You may also want to check out my DVDs so you can SEE how to work with him. The basic ideas/philosophies for addressing expressive language are on Teach Me To Talk. Teaching him to understand words is an important prerequisite and those strategies are on Teach Me to Listen and Obey 1 and 2. He has to learn what words mean before he can begin to use them to talk. As you’ve discovered, learning how to imitate is an important first step as well, and there are some articles here on the site to address that as well.

    Thanks for your questions, and I hope that you’ll begin to see progress soon!! Laura

  35. Mary says

    Dear Laura,
    Thanks so much for your site!!! Our son will turn 2 next week. He is very advanced physically, curious and seems to understand most everything. The problem is his articulation and speech delay. From a young age as an infant he had problems feeding, latching and then later would choke easily even as a toddler. I wonder if there is a link? I’m concerened about apraxia. His pediatrician didn’t note any problems with his mouth/tongue. He now will attempt to speak but says the same errors and doesn’t seem to progress. teese instead of please, teese instead of keys, ap-gu for apple, a-kun for open, uck for up, O for orange, WA for water, EIN for his aunt Emily, DADA for vaccuum, piano, many other things, and he says Da-da instead of bye-bye. he can just now say MOM and has started saying DAYA for daddy where he used to be able to say it. stopsign is shashigh, etc. I have an appt next week to see his peds to get speech eval.

  36. Laura says

    Mary – There could definitely be a link between his delayed speech and feeding problems. His errors could be due to apraxia, but it could also be a phonological disorder. He is very young to be targeting speech sounds in therapy, but I’d go ahead and get him evaluated now so that the SLP can teach you how to work with him at home. The DVDs that would be helpful for you would be Teach Me To Talk and Teach Me To Talk with Apraxia and Phonological Disorder. Is he doing any phrases yet? By 2 we’d like to see children use phrases spontaneously and consistently. Laura

  37. Larry says

    I appreciate your website. My son is 27 months, his language is just starting to take off. He has more words than we can count now, maybe 75, maybe more. But has only a few 2-3 word expressions like, “She’s there. Get that. Bye bye dada.” He doesn’t say some words that he knows though. He’ll point to his eyes, teeth, lips, hands, ears when we say them, but won’t say them himself. And when we ask him what a dog says, he’ll say, “Ruff-Ruff” And cop car says, “Woo-Woo.” But he won’t talk consistently and his language seems below most of his peers. And he still points to what he wants. My wife is a stay at home mom, but when he’s around other 2 year olds, they are talking back and forth. And he’s not. So, we’re worried. Should we seek help?

  38. Amber says

    My name is Amber I have a 18 month old daughter. She is not talking like the other kids her age. She has said words like bye and mom but doesnt say them anymore. every once in awhile she will say mom. she understands what i tell her to do. she waves bye when we are leaving, she goes to the bathroom when i tell her to lets take a bath. she will get her clothes when i tell her to. she understands everything that i say, and she will even go and point to what she wants. she just wont speak and i have even repeated what the words are to try and get to speak and i am getting a little worried.

    thanks

  39. Laura says

    Larry – It NEVER hurts to have your child evaluated if you’re worried about his language development. Call your state’s early intervention program to get started, or you can take him to a children’s clinic or hospital or an SLP in private practice for an evaluation.

    For your reference, I will tell you that the average typically developing 24 month old has 200-300 words by this age, but the bottom of the normal range is 50 words by 24 months, so a child with 75 words at 27 months may likely not qualify for services since he’s still likely functioning in the very low average range. Children have to be significantly behind to qualify for state-funded services and early intervention programs.

    That being said, no parent is satisfied or likes hearing a term like “very low average.” Even if a child is not eligible for speech therapy, working on language development at home will likely result in improvements for him so that he can catch up and keep pace with his little friends who are talking more than he is. If you’re using your insurance, a therapist in a clinic or private practice may see him for a “jump start” and to teach you how to work with him at home, which is more important than anything!!

    Keep reading for ideas here on the website, or check out my DVDs for more specific “How To” information. The first DVD Teach Me To Talk is a great place to start.

    Good luck! I love it when Dads write to me!! He’s so lucky to have two committed parents!!! Laura

  40. Laura says

    Amber – Typically developing 18 month olds should have at least 10-15 words. As you’ve noted, the average 18 month old has more words at about 50. I’d be concerned too, but it’s great that her receptive language is on track.

    You can call your state’s early intervention program to get her evaluated so that you’ll know for sure what’s going on with her. More importantly, you’ll want to be sure you’re working with her at home. Keep reading for ideas here on the website, and you may want to check out my DVD Teach Me To Talk so that you can SEE how pediatric SLPs target language in play.

    Teaching her simple sign language may also be helpful or her. Check out articles in the Sing Language section for how to get started.

    Let me know if you have more specific questions. Laura

  41. Liz says

    Laura,
    My son is 20 months and a BIG babbler who is also very expressive (he uses his hands when he babbles, it is quite entertaining to see!), however, he does not really talk. He points, grunts, and whines. He knows upwards of 20 words, but has only said them a handful of times. His first word was mama t 6 mo, then dada, etc. he picks up at least 1 word a week now, but again, will only say it for 2 days max, then we never hear it again. I have not heard mama in months! he understands everything we tell him, and has for quite some time. I am only concerned about him actually talking. What should i do? i talk to him constantly and i am on ‘his level’ playing throughout the house and outdoors. i give names to everything!

  42. Daisy says

    Hi Laura,
    I have visited your website several times over the past few months and i find it highly informative.
    My son would be 3 years in November and he doesn’t talk.He is actually very “noisy” as he babbles all, through the day to himself and to others.it is obvious he wants to communicate but can’t seem to.He is very in.When he can’t do things for himself,he would physically shove an adult in the direction of what he wants and babble very angrily until he is attended to.
    He does not respond to his name when called or to simple questions.He does however clap his hand,wave,does a hi-five when asked to.He doesn’t always play with other children but he does with his older brother who is 4 years old.

    He sings over 15 nursery rhymes and demonstrates them appropriately but his words are not distinct/clear.He loves music and dances a lot.He counts from 1 to 13 only when he wants to.he has a few words he uses for a while and stops-mummy,daddy,nana(food.He loves pictures but would not sit to be read to.He is very active-climbs and explores but i wont describe him as hyper active.

    I live in Nigeria and i have been unable to contact any early intervention services(none exist close to me.I however spoke with his pediatrician who says he does not seem autistic but might be mildly autistic.He suggested we wait till he is three before a conclusion can be drawn.That was a year ago but nothing has changed.

    I don’t feel comfortable just waiting and watching especially as i have read that early intervention is key.What do you think? What can i do to help?

  43. elisa says

    hi again,

    i wrote to you awhile ago about my son having trouble with m’s. I had believed it was due to the constant stuffy nose he had with his undiagnosed allergy. I took your suggestions and he can say m’s soooo much better now.

    I’m writing now because I am still worried about his speech delay. He just turned 28 months. He follows directions well, comprehends well, and will ask for simple things like more milk, i want, and i do it. He says lots of words but is not really “talking.” I tried to broaden his vocabulary by withholding items and doing flashcards. He can say pretty much everything he sees if i ask him, but wont just “talk.” He knows his alphabet and can pick up any letter by sight. Knows numbers 1-20. Knows colors/shapes and appears to be intelligent (picks up things quickly and is very good with puzzles, games, ect).just not expressing himself much. Make sense? The doctor said he’s fine and to wait till he’s 2 1/2 and been in school longer (he just started and is an only child right now). I had his hearing testing and it appears to be fine. I just know he should be talking more. Is it normal to know tons of words when asked and to follow directions well but just not be communicating more? Hopefully I’m explaining this right. :o)

    Overall, he is a very happy child. Sleeps well, eats well, and rarely has a fit. Usually only if he’s not well or teething. Everyone comments on how good he is. He’s not super into playing with kids his age yet, but likes if the kids try and play with him and especially loves playing with adults.

    thanks!!

  44. Laura says

    Elisa – NEVER wait! That’s horrible advice for a 2 1/2 year old who is really not communicating yet.

    It is a concern that most of his language is “academic” but he’s still not learning to use words functionally. Again, that’s a big concern.

    I’d S-T-O-P the drilling with flashcards and all numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc… If he can’t ask for milk, does he really need to know orange, or rectangle, or the letter R? I hope that doesn’t offend you, but it’s really the truth.

    He needs REAL words that he can use to let you know what he needs. I’d only use play-based activities and routines during your daily schedule. If you’re not sure how to do that, take a look at my DVDs so you can see for yourself.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but this is a huge issue for many, many children and parents. Use your “teaching” time to work on words that matter in every day life. Again the info here on the website and on the DVDs will help, and you know he’s fully capable of learning, so tweak what you’re doing to help him learn to understand and use words he needs.You sound like such a great mom with how dedicated you are to work with him, so change your activities. If you don’t see fast progress, then you’ll definitely need some help to teach you how to work with him at home. Laura

  45. micky says

    i have a 2 and a half year old who is starting to immitate and form 2 word phrases although his progress has been slow but is coming on better now. he attends a preschool 3 mornings a week and is definately making improvements there. his temper tantrums are so much better more easily controlled or stopped and are far less frequent. i put this down to the fact that he is starting to communicate better and even if he cannot ask with word he will take us and show us what he wants and will then back this up sometimes with the actual word. for example he will take us by the hand to the fridge and get out the milk and when we now say to him whats that hi will say milk. there is a member of my health visitor team however who seems to be adament he is autistic (but hasnt referred him for testing yet!) she just keeps coming back to us saying im still not happy with this or that etc ill see you again in a month or so. she seems to have nothing positive to say about him and more importantly has not given me any information or exercises to help him improve in any way shape or form other than giving me a leaflet about helping with fluency ( stuttering in a non verbal child!!! ask yoursef?) his preschool feel that his main problem is listening skills and have given me great advice and info and activities to help with this with a very positive outcome so i am now looking for ways to help biuld on his sounds/ words/ vocab. i came across this article and just wanted to say it seems to have all the info and ideas i need to help him develop further especially as we are currently waiting for a speech and language therapy appointment to come through so thanks very much x

  46. Brandy says

    I am a mother of a 23 month old daughter. She did not babble as a baby and did not start using words by 18 months. I have has her in speech and OT for almost 6 months. Her OT progress has been steady but in speech she has only said ball, signed; more, please, and I starting to Sign help. She can say her name when she wants, point to all her body parts and place the correct body part on mr. Potato head but still will not say mom or dad to me or my husband. We made a joke that when she wants something she says Mamama and when she really wants something she says dadada ( meaning she knows he is the softy). I am frustrated that I am not seeing progress, her speech therapist says that her receptive skills are wonderful. She is seen once a week for 45 min co-treating for sensory disorders ( she has a tactile deficiency and is behind on a few fine motor skills, stacking blocks, pincer, and self care). My question is when can I hope for results.

  47. elisa says

    hi again,

    thanks for getting back to me. surprisingly my 27 month old has started communicating a bit more. He had always asked for milk and asked for really whatever he wanted (food, toys, ect.) I don’t think I explained that he was communicating but not as much as I thought he should be. But now he’s started to string words like “I sit” and “I bath” things like that. And he understands everything I ask him to do.

    I’m thinking he may need some more playtime with me directly? I may let him play a bit too much by himself?

    I do have your DVD and watched the first part of it which taught me about engaging him when playing.

    Thanks for you help. I’m trying for my little guy.

  48. Gina says

    Hi Laura,
    My daughter, Sarah, just turned 4 years old and is kinder garden. She was born in the US and then at 1 year and a half she moved to Tunisia where there are two languages spoken (Arabic and French). I myself am Albanian who grew up in NY, so my family generally speak Albanian at home, so my daughter is hearing 4 languages at the same time (English, since I speak to her in English, Albanian, my mother speaks to her, and then Arabic and French which she is learning in the kinder gardent). Honestly she understands all of them pretty well, especially English, Albanian and Arabic, but she also watches cartoons in French and understands them too. But when it comes to speaking, she mixes the languages, she starts speaking in English then says another word in Arabic and so on. So her problem is she can’t communicate correctly in one languages, she mixes all of them. Every day she is getting better, and is trying to complete her sentences in one language, but then finds another word in another languages to finish what she is saying. I am a little worried because she is listening to all these languages at the same time, and is struggling to actually speak each one of them separate and correct. What can you advice me to do with her? Is this normal? Thank you very much for your response. Gina

  49. Amanda says

    I have twin boys who turned 4 in May. They are currently in Head Start and are having a lot of trouble talking. They can say a lot of things but they have significant trouble pronouncing syllables. They get so frustrated and so do I. They are actually getting ready to begin speech therapy at their school but I want to be able to help them as much as I can at home. However, nothing I do seems to help. They will work with me for a short time and then just say no; they don’t want to do it any longer. I have the Your Baby Can Read dvds and books but they won’t sit still long enough to watch the dvds and are so independent that they want to look at the books by themselves. My youngest boy is 2 and he talks really well for his age but I’ve noticed lately that he seems to be pronouncing words the wrong way too. I think he’s imitating his older brothers. What can I do to help all three of them? Thanks!

  50. Victoria Swink says

    I’m so glad that I found this website. I currently have to help a 3 year old learn how to talk and I have found it hard. He has a short attention span. Its easier for me to talk in short choppy sentences, and they usually have to be “yes or no” questions.

  51. Laura says

    Jessica – You gave great responses to my questions. I’m glad he’s social and that his receptive and cognitive skills are coming right along! I love that he gestures too. It’s probably not related to his hearing since his receptive language is good and since he’s trying to imitate more often. Keep working on imitation with him with familiar words. The more he imitates, the more practice he gets and the more likely that he’ll use the words on his own. Since he likes animal sounds and vehicle sounds, use those to build his imitation skills. Also try other fun play words like whee, wow, uh oh, whoops, etc… I’m writing a new book about building imitation, so keep a look out for this since it would be helpful for you. There are lots of articles on the website for ideas – try “Help! My Child Won’t Imitate Words.” Search for that article in the expressive category in the bar in the top right hand column.

    I also do a podcast on Sunday evenings where we talk about all things therapy related. The old shows are in the right hand column. Browse them for shows which deal with improving expressive language, helping kids imitate, etc…

    Have you checked out my DVDs? Teach Me To Talk may give you some new ideas for directly working with him on language at home particularly since you don’t have access to services. Since you’re a teacher, my therapy manual may also be good for you to provide some structure and directions or “lesson plans” for specific activities. Hope these ideas help! Laura

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