I have a two year old (just turned two) boy that doesn't speak much. He vocalizes only a few words (like "mom", "up", and "grandpa") clearly but other than those, he's largely silent. He seems content being silent except when he wants something and is frustrated that he can't say it. He does do a few simple sign-lanugage signs ("more", "all done", etc) that we taught him. He babbles some, but mostly when he's alone (right before bed or right after waking up).

He's wants us to read books to him all the time, and he can follow verbal directions from me so I'm confident he understands what's being said.

His pediatrician does not think he's exhibiting any signs for autism and other than his verbal development - he's healthy, well-rounded, and achieving the proper developmental milestones.

I haven't had success with the technique of offering choices to entice him to speak (i.e. "do you want the red shirt or the blue shirt?"), he just watches and doesn't say anything.

I'm sure I'm over-simplifying, but it seems to me like he just doesn't want to talk. Are there techniques I could use to get him to speak?

  • When you give him options, and he doesn't answer, what do you do? This is possibly the most impact piece - your behaviour as a parent is key.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 20:38
  • It's not uncommon for boys to be late talkers. A speech pathologist can assist.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 21:52
  • 1
    @RoryAlsop when he doesn't say anything in response to my options I say "if you don't choose, I will dress you in the blue shirt", and after a short while I give him that default option.
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 1:14
  • 1
    Neither one of my two boys said much until after their second birthday. Both of them were speaking in complete sentences and exhibiting complex trains of thought by the time they were three. I hope that encourages you.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 1:15
  • To circle back to this post, my son is now 4.5 years old. He started "really" talking when he was 2.5 years old. We took him to two different avenues of speech therapy (through the local school district and through his medical clinic). The attention was good, but that didn't seem to make much difference. As time went on, he gradually started talking more and more. Now he's totally normal doesn't seem to have been worse off for being a late talker.
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 1:59

4 Answers 4


There are possible physical reasons for a child to have delayed speech. I'm going to assume you've already discussed these possibilities with the pediatrician.

Barring physical reasons for delayed speech and other learning/behavioral/social disorders, it is completely possible he is just a late speaker. In fact it isn't uncommon for a child of this age to be at the level you seem to describe. Kids often develop asynchronously (meaning a child will have a strength in one area where they learn something early while being late in other areas) It is likely you just need to give him more time and he will come around. Many kids still don't have a lot to say by age two.

At the same time, there are a few things you can do if you aren't already.

Don't accept grunting - If he points and grunts at something to communicate that he wants it, say to him, "oh you want _." Say it while looking at him so he can see how you are moving your mouth when you say it. Then ask him, "can you say _?" If he can't, give him the thing anyway, but do insist that he at least sign please and thank you.

Narrate absolutely everything you do. Just talk about your thinking as you go through the motions. Then ask him lots of questions when he is doing something. "Why'd you _? Did you _because? Which color is your favorite?" . . . give him time to answer as though you expect him to answer.

Read, Read, Read

If he still isn't talking in another six months and you have not already enlisted the help of a speech pathologist, seek one out as he/she will have more helpful advice and exercises to offer as well as useful services in figuring out what it is that might be creating an extra challenge.

  • 1
    A big +1 for narrating everything!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 8:46
  • 2 is still young - ours didn't really become proper talkers till closer to 3. However, what really did it was talking to them. Narration really does help.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 8:30
  • +1 for "Read, Read, Read". I'd have upvoted if your answer had only been this one word.
    – haylem
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 22:54

As someone who is in a very similar situation with our own almost-two-year-old, our pediatrician actually recommended we start in on early intervention speech therapy. It's easier to help early than it is to catch them up later. We just had an evaluation done and they concluded that some form of therapy would be very beneficial. Neither the pediatrician nor the speech therapists were worried about any other issues. We haven't started therapy yet, but we're looking forward to it as it's frustrating for both parents and kid not being able to properly communicate. I would talk to your pediatrician about getting a referral to an early development group that works on these things, as it may be beneficial. In Indiana it's called First Steps.

That said, balanced mama's point about how a child develops asynchronously is likely a part of both our children's issues, and with any luck, speech should come soon.


I don't have an answer as to how to get your child to vocalize words. But I can say that my nephew didn't speak much at 2 or 3, but started at 4 and now he's 6 and literally won't stop talking. He didn't have interventions of any kind. He was just late talking. It's not necessarily a problem.


Sometimes it can indicate a silent seizure disorder called absent seizures and if the seizures are not treated the child can just descend into a condition that mimics autism when it's really just a seizure disorder! Staring spells help to differentiate !

  • Hi,Caren, and welcome to parenting. This is worrisome. Do you have any more information you can share about this (to help support your answer)? It would be greatly appreciated. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 0:43
  • Yes I wrote a book called Silently Seizing after researching the subject for 10 years. Go to Dr. Fernando Miranda website at WWW.brightmindsinstitute.com and there's an ABC news clip on autism and seizures and click on it it's a five minute clip and it shows claire shipman news reporter story about two families whose children began have symptoms of autism and it turned out they were only seizing and once they were treated they had astounding results!
    – user11587
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 2:14
  • If I'm not mistaken, your book deals with children who have been diagnosed with autism who are actually suffering fro a seizure disorder. I have read this in the literature as well. But a delay in speaking without any other signs of autism/seizure disorder is not likely to be autism or a seizure disorder. Fair warning taken, though. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 8:51

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