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My son will be two years old next month, and he doesn't speak. Actually, he speaks, but some other language which nobody can understand. If I point him out to something, he says it not perfectly, but after two words, he loses focus and loses interest and doesn't want to continue.

He is playful and social. I have tried cards, books with pictures, everything, but he is not interested and gets frustrated if I insist. He is very much interested in TV, laptop, mobile, iPad, etc. He can operate them very well.

I think his speech delay is related to his environment; we don't have any other kids of his age or any age.

What can we do to train him to speak up? I have read somewhere that by this age he should know 50+ words and should be able to join two words.

I am very scared due to his speech delay.

  • 2
    There's a lot of variation around language at that age --in particular, boys tend to speak later. Personally, I wouldn't worry yet. – Chris Sunami Mar 9 '15 at 16:40
  • 4
    At age 2, 50 words would mean '50 sounds consistently corresponding to the same object'. It does not mean 50 words anyone can understand. For instance, calling a truck for 'ruck' or 'uck' or 'truuu' or even 'ku-ku' would all be a word. – Ida Mar 9 '15 at 20:23
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    I started to speak when I was 4. – user13976 Mar 10 '15 at 10:15
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    I am told that I was 3 or 4 before starting to speak, but that my first words were "That smoke is terrific!" This may or may not be a bit of a family myth, but I know the jist is true (I really did pretty much entirely skip the "short words and phrases only" phase and went straight to complete sentences, it just took me a while to do so). – Kyle Strand Mar 10 '15 at 21:50
  • I'm told that I didn't make any sounds until past the age of two. No "goo-goo", no "ga-ga", nothing. Parents took me from doctor to doctor - nobody could find what was wrong with me. Finally a hearing specialist took a hard look at me, sighed, and said, "He's fine. He'll talk when he's ready". My parents were dejected. But one day they tried feeding me something I didn't like and...I said, "No! I don't WANT any of that!" A complete and grammatically correct sentence. Were my parents elated? Nope - my mother's response was "Shut up and eat it anyways!". Yeah - that worked well... :-) – Bob Jarvis Mar 11 '15 at 11:14

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I'm married to a Speech Therapist who owns her own clinic, so while she's really the best to answer your question, I can tell you from my observations and discussions with my wife that your child would not likely qualify as "delayed" based on your description. We also have a 2 year-old who's speech developed slower than his older sister's so that also gives me some credibility, for what it's worth. However, the only way of knowing whether your child is delayed or not is to have them evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist. If your child has a history of ear infections then you should have his hearing tested by an Audiologist or a Speech-Language Pathologist with the facilities to perform a hearing test on children. Sometimes preschools or day cares will have a vendor provide free screenings for hearing and speech, but it depends on the facility. You can also look for free screenings from your healthcare provider.

My suggestion is to speak to your child's pediatrician about your concerns and get a referral to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). If you have insurance and you get a referral then a formal speech-language assessment will usually be covered by your insurance. But here again, check with your insurance before you take my word for it. But in our experience most insurance companies cover the assessment or at least some portion of it to determine whether speech therapy is necessary.

If you do not have insurance then locate your nearest Early Intervention (EI) Regional Center. In CA at least, these Regional centers are funded by the state to provide EI services to families without insurance or who's insurance has denied services. They will assess your child and determine whether your child qualifies or needs speech-language therapy. If they do, then typically speech therapy will be paid for by the state as a result of the Lanterman Act.

Finally, a big portion of what my wife does as an SLP is to find ways of working around your child's frustration to establish attention and engagement from your child. Kids don't want to sit and do anything structured for more than a few minutes unless you find ways of getting them excited, keeping them engaged, and making it fun for them. So try to find ways to make it fun for your child to speak and express themselves. Turn any situation you can into an exercise like naming items on the shelf at the supermarket, having them say "more" or "I want" phrases when they want something. Challenge yourself to create as many conversational opportunities as you can for your child. And limit TV to less than 2 hours / day. When kids watch TV their brain shuts down. We've all seen the head back and gaping mouth look on our children's faces when they watch TV. Well that's what's happening inside too. Several of the children my wife treats are functionally normal but they're stuck in front of the TV for 6+ hours / day which stunts their development.

Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Good points, especially "Try to find ways to make it fun for your child to speak and express themselves. " We do that too, and our daughter really likes to play along (well, most of the time...). – sleske Mar 10 '15 at 15:05
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    One point: "limit TV to less than 2 hours / day". To me, 2h/day already seems like a lot. I'd probably say less than 1/2h, and ideally not every day. But I think there are different opinions on that point... – sleske Mar 10 '15 at 15:09
  • Yes sleske, I completely agree! 2 hours is still more than we'd like. My wife encounters a lot of parents that have children with developmental delays and they use TV as a way of coping. So we try to bring them from 6+ hours / day down to 2 or less. But yes, completely agree. The goal should be much lower than 2 hours. – John Yost Mar 10 '15 at 17:00
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If you want to encourage his development, spend time with him and talk to him like you would an adult. Speak to him as though he can understand everything you are saying. If you need to go to the gas station or grocery store, take him with you and explain what is going on while you're doing it. Let him hear you speak with other people. He may not like studying flash cards but he is paying a lot more attention to you than you may think. If you aren't doing these things, it could make all the difference. If you are, good for you.

  • This gives good practical advice - as as such qualifies as an answer, IMHO. (+1 from me - obviously others agree.) – Stephie Mar 10 '15 at 8:33
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If you are worried, you should have his hearing checked first. It is not uncommon for Small children to develop a hearing impediment caused by ear infections, which will have an impact on their speech development.

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My daughter didn't speak any even remotely recognizable words at 2 years old. We didn't do anything special, and eventually she figured it out. She is 13 years old now, and has had straight A's for 5 years straight, scored in the 99th percentile across the board on her high school entrance exams, played the lead in the 8th-grade play, and won a partial merit-based scholarship to the most prestigious private high school in town. She also plays a bunch of sports and has a nice group of friends. I'm not an expert and this is just a single anecdote, but if that is the only "symptom" you are seeing I would suggest you not worry about it.

Edit: In case it matters, she has two older brothers (+4 years and +2 years), and they each started talking recognizable words around 12 months. No idea why it took her more than 2 years, but it apparently was not an indicator of developmental problems.

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I do not know who said that he should know 50+ words. That's clearly not the case with the vast majority of children.

Here is a nice chart on child development I read somewhere on this site (do not take this chart as absolute limits, most children that are advanced in one area tend to be somewhat late in another area): Development chart

From what you say, he speaks perfectly for his age: It's half understandable, and he can say the name of objects/pictures you are pointing out to him.

  • 4
    ~50 words is not uncommon (ref. kidshealth.org/parent/growth/communication/not_talk.html) but it's important to note that it's quite rare for all those words to be easily understood, especially by non-parent adults. – Acire Mar 9 '15 at 15:18
  • Vocabulary is also dependent on the language spoken. A study (lost the reference, sorry), found that toddler vocabulary acquisition was directly related to the number of sounds in the language. Around age 3 they were all the same though. – Ida Mar 9 '15 at 20:29
  • I didn't walk until I was 16 months old and according to the chart linked in this answer almost all children should be walking well between 11 and 15 months. I never knew I was "developmentally slow" in this area until I was much older and that fact wasn't important then. So being a little bit late did me no harm whatsoever. – CJ Dennis Mar 10 '15 at 12:54
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I'm just a parent of a little girl slightly older than your son. She has similar problems, but I'm not worried.

I recommend to read with him, picture books, let him locate pictures of animals and name them, or ask what they say. Cat, snake, dog... Do not hesitate to read the very same book twice in a row, or more, but you must keep him active and cooperating with naming and/or locating animals on pages (or other things he know and likes, e.g. cars). Make fun of it. He will not get bored as fast as you. Children love repeating, mostly if they gradually get better (e.g. they can locate the cat very quickly). But insist on naming things you point at or ask for an animal, and even what does that animal say. Snake, frog, cow, owl... Correct him some times, and when you are sure he knows cat, make yourself stupid and point at a dog, and see if he corrects you. Make it fun.

You should limit TV or tablets to less than hour a day. It must only be gift if he achieves something. These activities do not force him to speak. Force him to speak all day long in common situations - when he wants to drink - hold the glass in front of him and ask what is it? - hand it if he says water or a tea. He should be rewarded for speaking and get what he wants - when he names it. If he does not name it, make yourself look stupid like if you did not understand - even if he knocks on the door to be opened. He should ask to open door. Force him to speak, that's all.

This may take long months, even years. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_syndrome - Albert Einstein's speech was delayed until age of 5.

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Anecdotal only but I didn't say anything much for years after my first word. One time my mum threw on the brakes and I fell into the foot-well and my first sentence was "If you do that again, I will pack my bags and move to Granny's house." So I kinda skipped all the steps between around 1 year-old to about 4 year. After that though, no-one could shut me up.

It just hadn't occurred to me that anything might need to be said before then and I hadn't realised my parents were kinda freaking out about it.

Various things make me suspect I might be high-functioning aspergers person (an aspie) but not 'quite' as high functioning as Bill Gates or Einstein or Michelangelo or Mozart!

So don't be scared and don't push the kid too much, but try to find out what is fairly normal and maybe see if you can figure out how he/she sees the world.

Since he is interested in iPhones and other IT stuff, is it possible to get reading cards or memory cards or learning tools on there for him to poke around with? Mac surely has a ton of educational toys for kids? "Scratch" might be a little to advanced for him just now, but it sounds like he might be currently heading in roughly that direction! I wonder if he carries on that way or if it'll be just a phase.

In another thread, jpatokal gave this link on speech and developmental milestones.

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Despite his playfulness, he may still have mild autism. If he does, you need to have it diagnosed asap. Getting a mildly autistic child into a developmental program very early can make a huge difference in the child's level of development for the rest of their life. (My son is mildly autistic). I believe most states will pay for such programs 100%. Maine did in my case.

Generally, the sooner you can get your child into a good state-approved developmental program, the less affect any autism will have in their life later on. My son was put in a program shortly before turning 3 and he is doing pretty well now at 13. A lot of people are surprised to learn that he is autistic now.

Just tell your doctor you are concerned about your child not speaking. First they will check their hearing and several other things, then they will look into autism.

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As a parent of two, non-verbal autistic children, we've worked with Early Intervention as suggested by other answers. In Illinois, EI services are only provided until age 3 (which may vary state to state). Unfortunately, it could take months to get services started. Worse yet is finding the right therapist to "fit" your child's (and your's) specific needs and schedule. By then, your child will age out and have to use services provided by your school district via some kind of Early Childhood program. We actually moved to a new town to get into a better Early Childhood school district for my kids.

In Illinois, at least, the law states that if a school is unable to provide an Early Childhood service, then that district is responsible for bussing your child to another local district. I was concerned about my (then 3 year old) son riding the bus for nearly 90 minutes one way to a special school two towns away.

Oh, as an aside, you should probably get prepared for the inevitable IEP meeting (which is a whole other set of frustrations).

My oldest son has learned to use Picture Exchange to show us what he wants. The speech therapist from his school has been the most effective by far teaching him how to communicate with this method. We've had about 4 different speech therapists via EI and NONE even mentioned doing something like this for him. Expect frustration with any therapies. My oldest has sensory issues and covers his ears even during normal conversations in the house. "Conversation" with him is impossible when he is over stimulated.

I would avoid the noise on this thread about limiting your child to this or that. Every kid learns differently. You will find whatever preferred activity your child loves to do and USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. The bottom line here is getting your child ENGAGED and you JOIN IN! Think about how you interact with your co-workers and family and ask yourself how many conversations start with some television show, sports broadcast, facebook post, tweet, news. Yeah...thought so... Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is like Sports Center for 3 year olds.

Ultimately, you should bring up any concerns about your child's developmental delays with your pediatrician. If you have a concern, get your child tested (hearing, autism, whatever). The earlier you start therapy services the better chance your child has of overcoming their developmental delay.

Best of luck!

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In my opinion it is completely normal, don't worry any more. I know children who speak after 2 years. There is not an obvious rule for speaking, some speak earlier than 2 years old and some later, so don't worry. He will speak slowly by time and there is nothing wrong with him.

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