My child will be 12 months old next week. He was born 6 weeks prematurely. My concern is that he doesn't seem to understand what anyone of us says. He does look when I say "look" and he does respond to his name, for the most part. I see online that babies should be understanding and performing simple commands, such as, give to mommy. I feel my child is not even in the ball park of something like that. He doesn't have any gestures like waving or pointing, but he does reach to be picked up and has started to clap. He babbles, but has no meaningful words.

Is this of concern at this point?

  • Of course, the advice to consult an expert is a very sound one. But in 90%+ of the cases, you are just overthinking the issue and your kid is fine! Not every kid develops at the same rate, and the 6-week premature birth is also a factor to consider
    – David
    Aug 26, 2019 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


The best advice is to ask your pediatrician.

As well, at least around here, there is a program run by the city called birth to three where they will come evaluate a child for free and then have a sliding pay scale should services be needed. Check to see if your area has something like this. We used them and they were great.

  • 1
    "The city" seems a little vague. Paris? New Dehli? May 23, 2012 at 20:28
  • the state of CT has it, but my understanding is many places have some sort of program, at least in the states. May 24, 2012 at 12:58
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    @DaveClarke - The actual city doesn't really matter. The point is that some places have a public service program and that the asker should see if her area has one.
    – Shauna
    May 24, 2012 at 13:35
  • OK. I get it. I just find answers/questions more useful if they don't make assumptions about the geographical location of everyone else. May 24, 2012 at 13:38
  • If people tell me where they are from I am happy to do some research. It is not hard to find the info you need on the internet these days, and knowing that these things exist some places is helpful to know what to look for. First step, as stated is dr. May 24, 2012 at 14:04

We had our daughter tested by an audiologist who often dealt with children. Although our daughter was fine, the audiologist told us that most parents bring their children in when it's way too late. Some children had gone years without their problems being diagnosed.

As Morah said, speak to a pediatrician but also ask about the option of having your child's hearing tested.

I can't comment about costs in your region but our audiology test was 100% covered by medicare (Australia). The pediatrician cost a small fortune ($370 for 45 minutes) of which we got back half from the government.


Both of my kids were born early...my son was 4 weeks early and my daughter was 5 weeks early. I have noticed a HUGE difference in my daughter's development compared to my son's, as well as her development compared to her cousin who is 21 days older than her. She is not as developed verbally as her cousin or as her brother was at her age. I have had to push my daughter to complete some of her developmental milestones (sitting up was a huge ordeal). There are a few things that I keep in mind when it comes to her development.

Even though research says that most preemies catch up by the time they're two, keep in mind he's still six weeks behind. Check the 10-month and 11-month milestones and see where he is. He probably understands more than you think, but sometimes we don't always recognize their acknowledgment of what we say.

Definitely mention it at your next check up and have his hearing checked. Like Morah said, the peds we saw in both Tennessee and Georgia have had referrals to county early-intervention programs who will come to your home and evaluate your child. One of my nephews received care through the Wisconsin program which leads me to believe that it's a national program (ours in Georgia is called Babies Can't Wait).

  • Thanks!! We have early intervention here in new York. I'm just afraid that he won't qualify for services seeing that they'll base his age on adjusted, not actual. I know they do not come back for atleast 6 months after an evaluation. I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place sometimes. I would love for him to get evaluated now, but then I think "what if he doesn't qualify?" but would qualify a few months down the road. Know what I mean? May 24, 2012 at 14:13
  • That does sound like a difficult spot to be in! I'm pretty sure the only significant response I was getting from Charlotte at 12 months was to her name and the word "No". She's 22 months now and we've only started really communicating since she was 15ish months old. She had several ear infections and we had tubes put in in December which we're pretty sure has made a huge difference in her verbal development since then. Check the 10/11 month milestones, discuss it with your ped, and agree to reevaluate again at his 18 month appointment if your ped doesn't think evaluation is necessary ATM.
    – Meg Coates
    May 24, 2012 at 14:50

Meg's answer hits it on the head regarding the fact that your son was a preemie. You really have to go by their due date for the first couple of years' milestones.

Additionally, it sounds like your son does understand what you're saying, as he responds to very simple commands ("look") and his name, not to mention that he's figured out how to consciously elicit a response from you.

How active is your son, and how are his motor skills? Children develop different skills at different speeds, so very often, they will excel at one thing (such as motor skills) and be "behind" on another. For example, my son is two and still doesn't talk verbally that much (generally just one or two words, doesn't say his own name, no pronouns, etc), but his motor skills are such that he not only signs, but can do things like climb ladders and stairs with ease.

One way to help increase communication between you and your son is through baby sign language. Children develop understanding long before their verbal skills, so signing can help them communicate (and can help ward off tantrums before they start).

Also, does your son go to day care or some other type of regular play groups with kids his age (or even a month or two older)? If not, it might be worth trying. Not only will it help him socialize, but may motivate him to work on his "weak" skills (one of the biggest things that got my son starting to verbally talk has been moving to the next room in daycare, where the kids are a little older and most of them talk better than he does, so he's started picking it up, too).

  • Thanks for your reply!! With regard to gross motor, he's just ok I think. He pulls to stand, started couch surfing a bit, he will army crawl sometimes, but likes to roll everywhere!! He takes steps when his hands are being held. As far as fine motor, I don't know too much about what the milestones are for his age, but he does have a pretty good pincer grasp. May 24, 2012 at 14:10
  • He doesn't go to daycare or anything like that. May 24, 2012 at 14:35
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    Shauna is right. Andrew grew by leaps and bounds when he attended daycare and mother's day out with older kids.
    – Meg Coates
    May 24, 2012 at 14:53
  • @ElizabethMarie - Here are WebMD's descriptions for 10 and 11 month milestones - webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-11-month-old webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-development-10-month-old . It sounds like he's about on par with regard to walking/cruising, at least. I recommend finding a play group to help his social/communication skills. It's amazing what little kids can teach each other.
    – Shauna
    May 24, 2012 at 16:01

My kid was slow developing. I was worried about a variety of things until he started crawling at 15 months and walking at 17 months.

In England you have a health visitor you can call if you have queries. I found this of great use just to reassure that kids develop at different rates and this is still in the range of normal.

I would say speak to someone but don't worry too much. Some kids are a bit slow. Once they master something though they will soon catch up.

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