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What to Do When Your Toddler Doesn’t Talk

What to Do When Your Toddler Doesn’t Talk

At 15 months, Jessica A.'s little girl isn't yet talking. This worried Circle of Moms member is trying everything she can think of to jump start her daughter's words, including flash cards, the 'Your Baby Can Read' series, and consistently saying the names of all the foods she eats, "but we haven't gotten much out of it yet."

Whether a toddler is talking or not talking, or how little, are subjects of great concern for many Circle of Moms members. And like Jessica A., many are wondering what they should do about these concerns.

The good news is that every child starts talking on her own timeline, and there's a broad range for that timeline. One mom with a slow-to-talk toddler, Brandi H., says reassuringly that a bit of time is the trick: "My older boy had a hard time talking until he was about 26 months," she says. He only said 'mama,' 'dada,' 'baba,' 'baby,' and 'Lulu.' Now he's three and his doctor is impressed at how well he talks for his age. I also have a 16-month old boy who already has a 12-word vocabulary and has already said his first sentence. So it really depends on the child."


Karen H. says she was concerned, but waited until her son was ready to talk. "My son was the exact same way, but I chose to opt out of getting him checked out at two because I knew he was doing fine," she says. "It's almost like a light switch came on around his second birthday. The child is a parrot now. He's gone from only having a 5-10 word vocabulary to repeating everything we say and being able to now string four words together."

Brandi's and Karen's stories are among many that offer a reassuring bit of wisdom: above all, moms say, don’t lose hope — there are things you can do to help. Here are three that are key.

1. Consult Your Pediatrician

Emily D. and Louise G. both suggest trusting your gut and consulting your child’s pediatrician or a speech therapist. “Maybe he/she can help you eliminate any concerns you have,” says Emily. “That would be my first step, get an appointment for him to see the pediatrician and go from there.”


"Going from there" may lead you to an evaluation for Early Intervention Services, in which trained specialists will create a program for you and your child that will help address speech and behavioral problems. (For more information on EIS, read An Early Intervention Services Primer.)

"If you have any doubt about your child's progress you should definately get them tested. I know it was the best thing I did for my children who were both diagnosed with speech dyspraxia," shares Michelle J.

2. Talk to Your Child All the Time

Moms like Julie suggest that parents speak to their toddlers frequently in order to encourage their launguage development. "I'm having the same problem," she says. "My 17-month-old son only says mama, goggie (doggie), and sounds for other words, like dada for drink. I'm having his ears checked at his 18 month appointment. Until then, just lots of encouragement and different words that he can hear."

Michelle M. says talking is the strategy she would recommend as well. "There are a few things I believe helped my very chatty three-year-old," she says. "Since he was a baby, I've always talked to him in full sentences. When I ask him questions, I give him time to respond. I find that many people don't give them time to process what they want to say."

3. Read to Your Child

Reading is another important habit that will go a long way in improving your child’s language skills, say moms. When they are exposed to reading it helps them pick up on the way words ebb and flow, says Brandi H. "My older boy had a hard time with talking until he was about 26 months," she says. "He only said mama, dada, baba, baby and Lulu. Now he's three and his doctor is impressed at how well he talks for his age. Sit and read lots of books pointing thngs out to her when you are out somewhere and tell her what they are each time you give her some thing tell her what it is."

Can you suggest other ways of encouraging a toddler to talk?

Image Source: Philippe Put via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
Rebecca-Zager Rebecca-Zager 4 years
Every child starts talking on his own timeline..It's very normal for some kids to start talking late..Taking them to a good speech therapist helps..I took my son to one , and it helped !
lilian6112 lilian6112 4 years
good morning Erin and everyone, my son's problem till now that he is 2 years and 2 months and he doesnt say a word no mama or papa , and this worries me so much , after starting his speech therapy he cries in horror the whole time he is taking his lesson and now he became more nervous on anything that I can't understand him , i asked his psychatrist who already diagnosed him with mild symptoms of autism told me to wait for some time till he accomodates to his speech therapy , now he has phobia that whenever we are in a closed place i will leave him and he will be taken to his speech therapy alone and he starts crying, is that normal for kids when thay start?? he has taken about 5 lessons and he cries and screams all the time during his lesson??does anyone has advice to continue for some time with his speech therapy?? or he will become more nervous and his case might worsen ?? thanks all for ur advice
good morning all,my son dad dad @ 9months & a few little other things then stopped.luckily his preschool teacher knew sign language,so thats how we communicated.well then he stopped!nothing no dad mom nothing!a friends' son who was born (6wks after mine) had developmental & physical disabilities was talking.she refered me to Valley Mountain Regional.who promptly came out tested him & set us up with a speech therapist.he'd say words for her.nothing for us.well my husband left to work in Alaska & my son had to stay with my mom for 3.5months.he came home!!!i dont know what she did but he talked...i figured it was due to the many ear infections(no he want tubed) but everything always came back i agree with everything listed in the article but if it all else ask to have their hearing tested & use a speech therapist if neccessary.wishing parnets out there 'good luck' & be patient
KarynHarnden KarynHarnden 4 years
My daughter just turned 3. And she has a speech delay. We have been using Early Intervention for a year and a half, and when she turned 3 she started a specialized school. She has been there only 3 weeks, and there is a significant increase in her words. Don't ever give up on your child. Or take everyone's opinions to heart. I have had my child tested and she is just a slow talker. I don't think it is right to expect children to be preforming brain surgery right out of the womb. Something will click, and speech will start flowing. Be patient. Always repeat words , talk constantly about what you are doing, and read to your child. I believe being around other children really helps!!
samanthanotenboomcurtis samanthanotenboomcurtis 4 years
thats also our point....william used to take us to what he wanted, cups for juice, cookie jar etc he made it clear what he wanted without talking...he is now being tested for high iq! his teacher in school (who is specialised in kids who cant talk) has now asked a linguist in because he is different from other kids in class...he is doing jigsaw puzzels of over 50 pieces in no time...its like there is a short circuit in his see on his face he is saying the word right just somewhere between it goes wrong and comes out differently
JuliaDube JuliaDube 4 years
One thing this article did not touch on was the difference between talking and communicating. If your child seems to be late with words, but is communicating with guestures, and seems to understand what you are saying, then a brief "wait and see" might be appropriate. If however, your child isn't pointing, guesturing, and showing some understanding of what you are saying, then contact your area's Early Intervention Program ASAP.
samanthanotenboomcurtis samanthanotenboomcurtis 4 years
hey, my son is 3 and we were started at 2 with early intervention...they said he showed classic but mild symptoms of autism...(putting things in rows, counting things etc) anyway the gave him an hour once a week with his own private teacher in preschool (who used sign language to emphasise certain words) he then got 1 hour a week speech therapy but the big turning point for us when at 2.5 he started at a special school (dont take this the wrong way but not the so called special for struggling kids) but a special nursery aimed at working with kids with speech problems...he is in a group with 6 boys and 1 girl (who has hearing aid)...and he loves it and his speech is coming on in bounds...only problem is im the only one who understands what he is saying (you can compare it to when your kid is 1.5yr and your the only one who understands the brabble.) but he is trying (4/5 words etc) he is now making eye contact with everyone because now he knows that people are actually trying to listen and its worth trying to communicate with big people wheras before noone even tried cus it was just syllables...keep strong, yes keep talking but never be afraid to ask for help and yes sign language as a support (ie signing while you are talking) is a fabulous thing as it helps their confidence (and helps you to see/hear what they need)
erincullinan erincullinan 4 years
Lillian- my son started with a speech therapist at 15 or 16 months, he cried too for a while and we found the best for us was for me to be out of sight- therapist would be downstairs with him and i would be upstairs in loft listening so I knew how to practice with him when she was gone. Did you ask therapist about whether she sees signs of autism? I know she cant diagnose but they do this on a daily basis, she may be able to lead you in the right direction- even if it's another therapist!
lilian6112 lilian6112 4 years
please i need advice my son is 2 years now he doesn't say a word i try with him so much everyday but he never says a word, he is completely normal in everything and his health is good, he hears very well and differentiates sounds but he never wants to respond back with a word, when i try to tell him to get anything like a ball or a toy he leaves me and does another thing on his mind, i started with him a speech therapist but he cries everytime , should i continue or will that affect his mental health?? or should he go to a psychatrist?? i am afraid he becomes more stubborn aand refuse to talk and gets even more delayed case??? need advice
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