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Our 15 month old has yet to speak any words. He seems to hear well enough, and will, when it suits him, listen to us when we ask things of him ("go get your ball!", etc). He's engaged with the world around him, and is pretty good at expressing his needs by positioning himself near what he wants and jumping and whining. But, the only vocalizations he has are various kinds of grunts and squeals.

It might be a parent's bias, but I'm convinced that he'll do fine once he starts trying. How can we encourage him to do so?

Things we've tried to little effect so far:

  • Singing
  • Reading
  • Pointing at things and saying what they are
  • Keeping a running commentary going of what we're up to
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I think your approach is very good for him. You're giving him a great passive vocabulary that he can pick from once he starts talking. And ... some kids just start later; this is not a race. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 21 '12 at 7:58

3 Answers 3

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It sounds like you're doing all the right things. Just keep it up! Every child starts talking at their own pace. 15 months without any words is a bit behind the milestone (2-3 words by 1 year is the normal milestone), but missing a milestone is absolutely no cause for worry. It is only when you see a pattern of missing multiple milestones that you should really start to be concerned. Your pediatrician should be asking about language development at well-baby visits, and will let you know if there is reason to be concerned.

I believe the most important thing is to talk to him as much as possible. Continue with the running commentary of what you're doing. Supplement it with asking him questions, even if he doesn't answer. The more you talk to him, and in front of him, the more he'll pick up, even if he's just passively learning it.

Instead of pointing at things and saying what they are, try pointing to them, and asking your son what they are: "What's that? Is that a cow? Can you say cow?" However, don't pressure him. Make it fun. The more it seems like a game to him, the more likely he will be to participate. Smiling while asking the question is just as important as your tone of voice.

The other thing to do is read more. I am now convinced that you can't read to a child too often. If your son enjoys sitting with you and looking at the books, even if he isn't pointing and identifying pictures, it is building his vocabulary for when he is ready to talk.

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Thanks for the suggestions. If we read more to him, we wouldn't be doing much of anything else. It is pretty much his favorite thing. –  Anon Mar 22 '12 at 6:51

What's the rush? If you are worried about toddler's hearing then get that checked out, but the speaking will come soon enough.

We have a friend who was almost 3 before he was really talking -- he communicated well much before that, but not with words. His 2 years older brother would do the talking for him much of the time and I guess he just never felt like it. When he did start talking it took no time at all for him to "catch up" to his peers.

Our baby is about the same age as yours and while she can take and understand relatively complicated instructions she still shakes her head for "yes" most of the time.

It's frustrating sometimes that she can't/won't talk so she can tell us what she wants, but it'll come soon enough.

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I am worried about your phrase, 'seems to hear well'. If you are concerned have his hearing tested. You did not mention that he responds to you appropriately when you speak to him, things like 'no no no', or 'get a book'.
The only think you can really do is speak to him. I think he is still a bit young to force him to use words when trying to convey what he is feeling, but you can let him hear what words he should be using, for example when he goes for a toy he wants but can't reach and indicates he wants it, say, for example, 'train please' before giving it to him.

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We definitely don't want to force him to speak, but have also switched to being a little "dumber" about his needs - anticipating them less and forcing him to express them. –  Anon Mar 22 '12 at 6:54
    
@Anon or continue to anticipate, give him the words, and then have him repeat. He may be at a loss at to what you want. –  morah hochman Mar 22 '12 at 12:34

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