Child Development: What to Do if a 2-Year-Old Isn't Talking

Hi Dr Heather, My 2 year old son isn't talking yet. He socializes at daycare, we read books, and try to encourage him by pointing at objects and saying their name. He will ramble on in his own language & expect us to understand it & sometimes gets frustrated when we don't. He communicates with us mainly with body language when he wants something, but he's also so laid back, and almost feels like he doesn't think he needs to speak. Every now & then he'll come out with a word here & there & we acknowledge it with praise, and other times when we try to get him to say a word, he gets really frustrated. He understands what we say & he follows directions very well. Do you have any tips? We're running out of ideas.

Thanks, Carrie

Hi Carrie,

I often get this referral question in the clinic where I consult. Parents and clinicians frequently worry about slow-to-develop speech; luckily, there is often nothing "wrong". In general, what we're most concerned about at this age is COMPREHENSION. If a 1 or 2-year-old has good comprehension, then overall language skills are usually fine. Kids DO talk at much more variable rates, and it often has nothing to do with later speech and language proficiency. Our third child was the latest to develop speech, yet now at nearly 4 he has, by far, the best diction and vocabulary of all our kids at that age.

With that said, however, 2 is quite late, overall, for speech to emerge. I suggest having him evaluated by your local Early Intervention team; your pediatrician can usually guide you to a group with a good recommendation. Even if there's nothing amiss, the evaluators often can give you some great suggestions on how to further encourage speech use by your little guy. If he does qualify for speech and language therapy, definitely go for it. These services are usually provided by very well-trained and dedicated professionals who can make the sessions fun and exciting for little ones. The good therapists closely involve parents in the sessions too.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink