A question for other parents


My son is about 18 months old and though bright and clever, he seems like he’s refusing to speak…

He babbles a lot and has imitated sounds since he was about 5-6 months old, but he has not said many words and what words he has said he won’t say again. He has said mommy, daddy, boo boo (the name of one of my parents cats), tries to say ‘thank you’, has said the word ‘bird’, has attempted, on rare occasion, to say ‘beautiful’, and a few other things here and there… but lately, he hasn’t said anything at all other than babbling. Is he just being stubborn? Is it anything to worry about? Do children typically have periods of being obstinate toward certain areas of development? Am I not talking enough around him? Should I be making an appointment with his doctor to ask him about it? Am I over worried?

I’ve had two family members who both spoke late, one had a problem with his ears (which a simple surgery took care of) and for the other it was a speech processing disorder. So, I just don’t want to let something like either of those things to slip by me if that what it is…



The next stage of communication is what has been referred to as “babbling.” At the age of around 4 to 6 months babies start to make many more sounds. Before speaking words, babies practice the sounds, intonations and rhythms of language (Fitzpatrick, 2002).

By around 14 to 20 months of age, a child will usually speak actual words. They begin with simple words that they have heard often, such as “mama” or “dada.” These words eventually turn into two-word phrases, which is the next step on the journey of speech. Two-word phrases such as “come baby” or “doggie gone” begin around the age of 2 years. By this point, a baby should have around 50 words in her vocabulary. When a child can link two words together, it shows an understanding of both words and content. Object and action words are understood and expressed. Language socialization research provides important insight into young children’s linguistic and cultural development and helps us understand the relationships between the cultural context and the use of language with and around children (King and Park, 2003).


9 months to 18 months:
Babies can understand some of the words they hear often. They usually say their first words at about one year of age.

Then, language development progresses very quickly. They start using more and more words, gestures and facial expressions to communicate with others, and they understand more of what is said to them.

Sometimes, babies sound like they are telling stories because they are already able to use the same rhythms and sounds used in their parents language, even though they are not using real words yet.

Simple songs and nursery rhymes with actions babies can copy are good activities at this stage. Some popular ones are Row, Row, Row Your Boat and If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.

Talking about what you are doing lets your child see how language is used to describe the world.

18 months:
By 18 months, children can usually understand and answer simple questions. They can show you a familiar object, and they can point to body parts when asked. At this age, children usually can use at least 10 words and also use gestures to get their message across.

They may use common phrases such as all gone or Oh no. You can help your child’s language development by adding words to the ones your child uses. For example, if your child says car, you can reply with big car. This helps your child learn and use two-word phrases. When you talk to your child about things in picture books, repeat the words your child says the right way. For example, if your child says tup, you can say Oh, you want the cup.

24 months:

By the time children are two, they may use many words and can speak in two- and three-word phrases. They understand a lot of what adults say to them. They can point to pictures of people and things they know.

To help their language develop, you can ask your toddler simple questions and wait for a response. For example, say Where is the ball? and then wait for your child to point or tell you where it is.

Toddlers love to sing songs and copy the actions and words in the songs. They love listening to you describe what you are doing during simple everyday activities. For example, when making toast in the morning, you could say, POP goes the toaster! Your toddler may laugh and repeat the sound, and look forward to hearing it again the next day.



Child says 3-5 words;

Child recognizes his/her name;

Understands simple instructions;

child may use both gestures and vocalizations together

Child understands common objects and actions (e.g., cookie, eat, juice).

Talking Tip: Label items frequently. When child reaches or shows interest in an item or action, label it using 1-2 words. Provide choices from with 2 objects such as “want juice or milk” while holding carton of each. Continue with nursery rhymes, colorful books, “Peek-a-Boo”, “Pat-a-Cake” and songs.


Child uses about 10-20 words at age 18 months including names;

Recognition of pictures of familiar persons and objects

Early 2-word combinations of words emerge;

Needs are requested verbally such as “more, up”;

Child will point, gesture, follow simple commands, imitate simple actions, hum or sing;

4 months (2 years.):

Child understands simple questions and commands

Identifies familiar actions/activities in pictures (i.e. “sleeping, eating”)

Follows directions to put objects “on, off, in”

Puts two words together on average

Sentence length of up to three words

Child will refer to self by name

Labels pictures

Final “s” is used for plurals

Vocabulary may jump to 300 words during the year! In fact between the ages of 2 and 4, kids may increase their vocabulary by as much as 2 words per day;



Boys take longer to develop language skills. As long as he appears to understand your spoken words and is communicating (in his own way) I wouldn’t get too worried - yet.

Our first son followed the schedule outline above to a “T” and was actually a little ahead until disaster struck in the form of epilepsy. Our second son was extremely slow to speak and was even using sign language for a time. He finally started to put words in a sentence at age three. Now at age seven we wonder what all our concern was about.

What might be of concern is the fact that he was using some words and then quit using them that needs to be monitored closely.


If you’re concerned, check with your son’s doctor.

With our daughter, she was only saying a few words here and there by age 2, which had me worried. (I’m a worrier) :o My sister-in-law is a speech therapist who works with pre-school aged kids and she told me not to worry, that our DD would probably be fine within a few months, especially since it was very obvious that she understood what we were saying to her. (Comprehension is a big part of the equation.) We waited a few months and sure enough, she took off talking and hasn’t stopped since! :smiley: Like I said though, if you’re worried check with your doctor – you can have an assessment done (for free I think) by your county to see how your son is doing.

(Also, remember that the milestones mentioned in the above post are averages, not necessarily when all children hit them. Our daughter was “behind” a bit but did not have any speech problem.)


How are other areas of development? How is receptive language? does he have a history of ear infections or sinus infections? Any other behaviors that concern you?


If you’re concerned, please see his pediatrician.

My boys didn’t talk much more than “mama” and “dada” until age 2. But that’s just my experience. :shrug: Now, they won’t shut up. :wink:

My 13 month old daughter is already babbling more than my boys did at a much later age - I’m shocked by the differences between boys and girls (so far!)…


You can also contact your local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program to have a speech therapist evaluate him. In Texas they are either part of the County or School district infrastructure.


I don’t think it is abnormal, especially for a boy. I also wouldn’t say refusing - 18 month olds don’t plan that kind of thing.

My neighbours kids didn’t start talking until they were two - the youngest 2.5. They are all bright, and verbal, children.

Do have hearing tested if you haven’t, though.


This is what we did, when our daughter reached 2.5 and didn’t talk yet (she did babble, though). Once we got the hearing test done, and everything checked out fine, we just let her do her own thing. I remember everyone telling me that I should get her evaluated or in speech therapy or whatever. Instead, my husband and I just waited. Finally, at 3.5, she started saying more than two or three words that I could understand. That was only a couple of months ago, and her language is slowly improving. Before, she seemed really embarrassed to say words, and now, she’s all proud of herself. I’ve been teaching her letter recognition and basic reading skills, despite her lack of spoken language.

My son is 19 months old, and he only babbles, still. I haven’t yet heard him actually say any words. :shrug: I’m cool with it, though, since his big sister did the same thing.

I guess my kids are just the quiet types. For now, anyway. :wink:


My now 16 YO did not speak until he was 2.5 years old. Now he WILL NOT SHUT UP!! (He also has a 3.98 GPA…:thumbsup:)


I agree with everyone that most 18-month-old boys don’t talk a lot, but they do make noises!

But one thing to check out is tongue-tiedness. My younger daughter had this. At 18 months, she wasn’t saying anything intelligible. My husband and I actually thought that she was “retarded,” since her older sister said her first words at 7 months and by 9 months, could carry on quite a conversation.

One day I took my younger daughter to our dentist because I thought one of her teeth might be infected. The teeth were fine, but the dentist said to me, “You realize that she’s tongue-tied, don’t you?”

I didn’t! The dentist pointed out the “forked tongue,” like a snake’s tongue, that is characteristic of tongue-tied children. Her tongue was bound to the bottom of her mouth by a very short frenulum, which is why it’s called “tongue-tied.” Try talking at the same time that you hold your tongue to the bottom of your mouth–you sound garbled, and that’s what my daughter sounded like.

The dentist referred us to an ear/nose/throat specialist, and a week later, our daughter had a “z-plasty” done. It’s a lot more delicate than just snipping the frenulum, and it doesn’t create scar tissue like the “snipping does.”

It took a few days for my daughter to heal, but once she healed, she talked fluently and had a huge vocabulary. Turns out that she had been talking all along, but no one could understand her. Think how frustrating that must have been for her! To this day, I bless that good dentist who picked up on her condition.

If you discover that your child has this, ask specifically for the surgeon to do the “z-plasty” procedure. There might be an updated procedure by now, but if not, don’t let him/her just snip the frenulum. Get the good procedure done (and get it done before the National Tribunal denies you the funding for it!) It’s more complex and therefore, more expensive, but it’s permanent and it’s less painful and has great results.


Thanks for all the replies. I’m not as worried now. whew.

He’s very bright and understands everything I tell him to do or not to do and often impresses me with that (I’ve known a lot of kids that at his age… just didn’t seem quite so comprehensive). He loves to pretend to read books, he’ll sit on the couch with the cats and flip through his books babbling on and on and he imitates us when we’re having conversations and talking with our hands (or fussing at the TV)… he just stopped saying the words he was saying not more than two weeks ago. If he doesn’t pick back up soon I’ll see about making an appointment with his doctor. I think he’s just a lot like me though… Hyper-active always go go go, I guess there’s no time to talk when he’s busy trying to figure out what he can get into next, lol.


My daughter showed no interest in talking; then one day after she had turned 2 years old, she started talking in complete sentences and hasn’t stopped since. (She pays her own phone bill, thank goodness!). My friend’s daughter, they are from another country, didn’t start talking until she was almost three; then she started speaking in English and their native language, it just took her extra time to figure it all out. Be sure to read to your child every day!


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