My 16 month old doesn't say any words though he babbles a lot. He recently started repeating "mummy" when I say it. He responds to his name (though sometimes he totally ignores me). He follows 2 commands ("come" and "no"). I think he understands a couple of other words such as "milk" and "sleep" but I'm not totally sure.

He has great eye contact and does seem aware of what is happening around him. He is usually happy around other children (though sometimes he is cranky), he watches and smiles at them and on occasion even approaches them and tries to take/play with their toys.

He is usually a happy baby. His gross motor is delayed, he is cruising along furniture and hasn't yet started to walk without support. I am worried. Do you think he is just a little late in development or is there a major concern here?

  • My mother said I didn't talk until I was five, while I think this might be exaggerated, many of her sisters were concerned about me. My mother went to her local doctor and inquired whether I understood what was being said. She replied, yes. "She (me) just goes and gets what she needs without asking, and she loves drawing." The doctor told her that I would start speaking when I felt I had to, which coincided with my going to school.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 29, 2015 at 13:10
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    I don't think there is any way to know unless you take him into his pediatrician to be evaluated. At his age it could go either way. Best to be prepared. The fact that both speech and motor are affected suggests that there might be something going on and the earlier you can get him diagnosed the earlier you will be able to start whatever specialized therapy or teaching he needs. Sep 29, 2015 at 17:40
  • My aunt didn't start speaking til age 3 - but she started with full sentences. Most likely, he doesn't feel a need to.
    – warren
    Sep 29, 2015 at 21:13
  • I agree with Francine. There are "hints" like asking "would you like some chocolate" or "if you touch your nose with your hand I will give you chocolate" and see if they get it right the first time. You can also watch how they play with others. Sep 29, 2015 at 22:02
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    Have you spoken with your pediatrician yet? If not now, then at his 18 month checkup, do so. Your pediatrician is an expert in diagnosing issues like this.
    – Joe
    Sep 30, 2015 at 5:36

3 Answers 3


Is this your first child? First children often miss a few milestones, especially if Mommy stays home with them instead of day care, because they don't see anyone else their size doing new things. They'll watch Mommy and Daddy walking, and eventually get the idea, but the second child will pick it up a little faster, because that child will be able to watch their older sibling all day, every day, and get a better idea of how to do things when you're only two or three feet tall.

My eldest daughter was much the same walking-wise; she wasn't really walking unassisted until just before her second birthday, while my middle daughter got the hang of it around her first birthday. However, my older was a real babbler, and started learning the names of things in her daily life fairly early, maybe about 8 months or so. My middle child's been slower to learn language, and at 18 months she still has a fairly limited "signal word" vocabulary (mommy, daddy, blankie, milkie, cookie, hung'y, phone, up, down, maybe a couple others) while my elder child was really taking off by that age, with parts of the body, furniture/appliances, and basic times of day.

Your child will start doing these things when he figures out the advantage of doing them over what he's currently doing. He learned to roll over because it was boring to lie on his back and stare at the ceiling (and/or it was tiring to be on his stomach holding his head up for so long, then unpleasant to lay his head down in his own drool). Then he learned to crawl because he couldn't reach something he wanted on the floor from where he was, and he learned to pull up and cruise because it changed his perspective of the room allowing him to see further. When he realizes that walking allows him to move more quickly, and/or to carry something in his hands while moving, he'll start trying harder to master that skill. Similarly, when he learns that words are symbols, not signals, he'll want to learn the words for more things so he can say what he wants in more situations.

One thing my wife and I think may have jump-started our eldest to learn to walk was to soften the floor. Practically all the floors in our house are hard surfaces (tile, laminate etc), and on a hunch we bought a big area rug for the living room where she spent most of her day crawling and cruising. Within a month after that, she was walking. It may be coincidence, or she may have realized the rug doesn't hurt as much to "fall down go boom" onto, which increased her confidence in trying to walk.


A kid is considered language-delayed if they have no words by 18 months, so he's not delayed yet in that area. His gross motor, on the other hand, is delayed. Has he been assessed for that?

If he does fall behind in language, you'll be glad to know that he shows a good chance of catching up. Kids who have good receptive language (ability to understand speech) tend to be more likely to catch up in speech than those who have delays in both receptive and expressive language. Does he also use gestures, such as waving goodbye, or reaching for things to ask for them? That's another good sign.

He certainly doesn't sound autistic, if that's something you were worried about. His social skills seem pretty typical for his age, and you didn't mention any odd repetitive behaviour or sensory sensitivities.

I would recommend getting his checked out for the gross motor delay, though. A kid his age should be able to walk independently.

  • I think this answer could be improved if you have a source for the first statement (no delay unless there is no words at all at 18 months).
    – Ida
    Feb 9, 2016 at 18:57

No, until 36 months there is everything normal as long as the child understands everything. This can be tested by commanding him. Understanding may come long before producing, and if it takes so long, he will eventually start speaking nearly perfect grammar.

On the other hand, commanding is difficult when he cannot walk as you usually test with things like "Bring me the glass of water from the table!".

And there is the other thing: The fact that he cannot walk is a delay in acquiring gross motor skills and may even influence the production of speech.

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