I had a conversation with my 3.5 year old son today and it went something like this:

“I really want to go to the book store and ride the elelator (escalator) and play on the train table.”
“We already did that today.”
“We rode the elelator up, up, up and turned right and saw the train table with LOTS of new trains and I played with my best friend.”
“Yep.  Now can you go night night?”
“I want you to stay and cuddle with me.”

Other days our conversations center around how cool motorcycles are, what it would be like to jump on top of clouds, how much we love one another, why chocolate isn’t considered a food we can eat for lunch, and why saying “huh” all.day.long is not cute.  Each time I am tired of the non- stop chatter stream spewing out of Fletcher’s mouth I think back to what only seems like a few months ago and how he couldn’t say the “s” sound, would sign for most of his requests, and if he was talking it was in 2 word sentences.

I thought he would never speak!  I worried about his speech at least once a day and compared him to other children his age.  Others were saying “Mama I’m hungry” or “Gimme toy” but the most I was getting out of Fletcher was his modified sign for “more” which meant “I’m hungry, feed me.” or him grunting and pointing to a ball and going “ba.”  I doubted my mothering skills and assumed by blogging during parts of our day together that I had scarred him for life by not spending time working on his pronunciation or showing him flash cards.  I was so happy we learned baby signs because otherwise I wouldn’t know any of his needs.

I endured the scrutiny from other parents and, to a greater degree, from my own family.  Each time we would video chat with my in-laws remarks were made about my son never talking.  More often than not my mother-in-law instructed me to sound out words while Fletcher was made to watch my lips move. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is not what I said because I had done so a million times.  He just wasn’t interested.

Fletcher had no problems understanding all of our conversations or instructions.  He could point out every animal/color/shape/number/letter in any book and he was happy to do so.  Ask him to say “Can I have some Milk?” and you were met with a disinterested stare.

I continued to worry about his speech but was reassured by my pediatrician that no early intervention would be needed and that he would certainly start speaking soon.

Then something clicked and Fletcher was putting 3 words together, then 4.  He was communicating his needs to us.  He wasn’t singing Lady Gaga songs yet (like another friend his age) but to me this was like Christmas!

The speed at which he developed language was astounding.  Daily I could see his sentences improving.  Within a few months he was right at the level of his peers, even better than some, in terms of his speech.  He might have taken almost a year to start up his conversations but once he mastered the art he never stopped.

Now my little Everett, who uttered “dada” at 5 months and had us all thinking he was going to be a master of words, is taking his time hitting his speech “milestones.”  I’m taken right back to a few years ago and wanting so badly for my first son to say anything so that I would know he wasn’t delayed.

This time I’m rather enjoying this slow progression to speech.  I was waiting for Everett to say Mama and he finally did 3 months ago.  Now since this is one of his few words I hear it a few dozen times a day.  He so effectively communicates by signing, pointing and saying “this” (by the way, his first real word was “this”), or by me just understanding his needs that he doesn’t need a lot of language.  I’m not discouraging him from speaking but I’m not terrified that he is behind his peers and will therefore not get into a good college some day.  Fletcher is very intelligent, polite, well spoken, and won’t stop talking.  It took him a year extra to get there.  I just wish I could tell myself a year ago that soon enough I’d be listening to the full version of “This Old Man” non-stop for a week.

Besides, with only one child talking I am saving myself from the inevitable spoken battle over which light saber belongs to which child!

So if you are one of the mothers out there who think their child is the only one not talking, the only one who can’t sing “Poker Face” at 2 years old, the only child who chooses silence over constant babbling, you are NOT ALONE and most likely your baby will soon be annoying the crap out of you.  If your doctor isn’t worried, you don’t worry.  I have asked a friend of mine many questions related to toddler and baby speech troubles who is a Speech Pathologist.  She has a blog now at Playing With Words 365 and she is a fantastic resource for anyone concerned about what is “normal.”

18 Responses

  1. I think all kids speak at different levels at different times I do believe nicely correcting them when words are spoke incorrectly will help them to communicate more clearly and also be able to speak with people and children outside your family. Talking clear and somewhat slow also helps toddlers to beabel to pick up on the corrent way to talk. your son seems like he is in the normal range for his age, but for a child reaching preschool age when they begin learning the alphabet and phonics pronunciation is important practicing letters and sounds with him will help him to speak with out missed letters or sounds. as for your toddler start doing the same with him but with things he likes, like Juice pure a little in a cup have him taist ot and then ask him to say juice if he does say it again and give him another taist. he’ll start to understand that he has to say the word before he gets what he needs, or wants. 

  2. My son too was a late talker who felt that all communication was covered by “nanas” his word for me and nursing, the signs for more and all done. Now at three and a half he is a Verizon ad “Can you hear me”. Part of me worried and part of me knew that he was working on other things developmentally.

  3. Thank you for writing this post, everyone always bugged me why my son wasn’t talking a ton at 2 years old or even saying the few words  at 18 months old that our friends son who is a month older was saying. He still doesn’t talk sentences and most times it sounds mumbled but at 28 months I am not worried because he has improved a ton.

  4. I just typed up a huge, blog post length response and deleted it 🙂 I am so glad that Fletcher is doing well! As a mom of a child with a severe speech disorder who waited far to long to pursue therapy, I do want to encourage any one who has concerns to go ahead and get your child evaluated. It doesn’t mean you are paranoid or overreacting. If everything turns out okay, so much the better 🙂 But there are some kids who won’t just start talking, and if your child is one of those who needs therapy, Early Intervention can play a huge part in a positive long-term outcome. My daughter is almost 7, and I still have to ask myself, “Will she ever be able to easily communicate?” I shared more about our story in this post: http://sistersncloth.com/2012/02/06/joy-and-fear-why-i-stress-over-every-word/  ~Melissa

    1. I would have had him evaluated in a heart beat if my pediatrician said so. I worried despite being told not to. That why really my whole point 🙂 I wish I would have listened when assured he was fine but I didn’t. Of course he turned out to be just fine. Those who need an evaluation should seek one if only to get some peace of mind.

      1. My pediatricians (2 different ones, since we moved) never expressed any concern. It took me saying, “I want to get her evaluated, how do I need to do that?” for them to do anything. I’ve heard of other parents having similar experiences, which is why I tend to tell parents to move forward regardless of whether the pediatrician is concerned or not. Of course, I also understand that sometimes we can be overly fearful. Nehemiah is well within normal ranges, but I’ve had to look at the charts and remind myself of that repeatedly because of my past experiences.

  5. I don’t know. I guess I’d be fine with my son talking my ear off.  🙂  He will be 2 years old next month, and he stopped saying even “mama” or “dada” about 6 months ago. He grunts, points, and makes happy screeching sounds. I’d love to just hear his voice.  <3 

    1. I love hearing how far he has come but there are days I’m glad only one is talking my ear off because the idea of two trying to “out talk” one another is frightening! I’m relieved he is talking though, for sure.

      1. Oh, I hear ya. lol My boys are twins, and while Robert doesn’t talk, he can make quite a bit of noise. When those two get started, it makes my brain hurt. lol It has made the rare dining-out experience …. interesting. haha.  🙂

    2. Just be aware that when kids previously talked and stop, it’s good to bring it up to your ped. Just to keep an eye on autistism spectrum disorders. Early intervention is key there. That being said, my nearly 2 yr old “talks” constantly with grand hand gestures even, but says very few words. It’s quite comical actually. We too have family members, VERY concerned with his speech, comparing him to his brother,. This child is THE most stubborn kid and has done each and every thing in his own time. Crawled at 9mos, walked at 14 1/2mos.

  6. Thank you for the reminder! It is sometimes too easy to compare my 19 month old to his 3 year old sibling. My older child started putting words together around a year and a half so when my younger child’s most complex words at the same age are “anana” and “abba” (banana and Yo Gabba Gabba) communication is frustrating. It is nice to have someone else remind me he’ll be chattering when he is ready.

  7. I appreciate this post! My son is 29 months and only says about 6 words clearly and about 25-40  more un-clearly. He is a constant babbler, and I think he actually believes he is saying real words! Like Fletcher, he points out all his favourite things in books and will refer to animals, trucks, cars, tractors, trains as the sounds they make. He also has a habit of using his usual words (nana, da, mumma,) with various intonations to mean words he has said before. 
    We started taking him to public health at 20 months and he is seen every 3 months. I brought it up with our family doc and insisted that he see a specialist/ pediatrician. Every single professional has told me that while he his speech is delayed, he has excellent understanding, can communicate his needs effectively enough by pointing, leading us to what he wants. He is extroverted, happy and loves engaging others in play. He does have a shorter than average attention span which makes listening to our words, listening to books frustrating. While they have given us some good strategies (such as asking him to look at us and watch our lips when we talk— he now also puts his finger up to his lips and babbles into it like we are doing!) it is waaay easier said than done. We have learned that we can not MAKE him say anything, even thank you (“tank-ye”) which he has said and if we with hold the food or toy, he just freaks which we were told is the opposite of what we want. The point of speaking after all is to communicate your wants/ needs without getting frustrated. They tell me that one day he will just start saying new words, day after day. So I do love hearing of all of the late talkers that turned into deep thinkers, avid readers, and annoying super-talkers with great vocabulary! I look forward to telling other worried moms (which, I feel I get a pass on since my child’s development is up there in terms of ‘the scheme of things’), about how much my son chats!

  8. I am all for reassuring mamas that worry. However, oftentimes mamas worry for good reason. In my opinion, the AEA is a far better speech resource than my pediatrician. Early intervention never hurts and if it’s not needed, your child won’t qualify. I am so thrilled with the help we got my son, starting when he was not quite 2. Therapies were a very positive experience for him. He had fun and was able to learn how communication could help him get what he needed. Crying and frustration on his end decreased. He completed all services before he was even 3 1/2 years old. It is possible that he eventually would have “caught up” on his own. But it’s also possible that the gap would have just gotten greater. I’m glad I didn’t wait to seek help. I’m so happy that your son was able to get the speech figured out on his own and that happens with a lot of kids, but it is important to remember that it doesn’t always work that way. And really, there is no harm in getting your child evaluated.

  9. Awesome post! A few months ago I was SO worried about my son not talking at all. And just in these past few months he’s learned and said new words every week. It seems like boys have a harder time talking. At least in my experiences. My sisters boys all had delayed speech. My son is too hyper to ever have the time to sit down and listen to what I’m saying lol

  10. This is a good post but I also have to agree with a few other mamas that commented. If a mama really feels like her child needs help, an evaluation will not hurt anything and may help a child who really needs it.

    I was also assured by *everyone* that my son was fine, that he’d start talking on his own when he felt like it. But my mama gut still nagged at me. I dropped the issue when my hubby started getting irritated at me when I’d bring up the subject. It wasn’t until my son was four that I finally pushed to get him help. My son was using maybe one or two nouns and just sort of babbling and gesturing the rest of the time. The only time he used full sentences was when he was quoting books or movie lines.

    At first we were able to get him help right away. Then we moved to a crappy area of CA where no one wanted to help us. We had to get on a waiting list for speech therapy for my son and we waited a year and a half before it was our turn. Then the therapist turned out to be a wench so we stopped taking him to her.

    We also got on the waiting list for therapy at the local university. That wait only took a year.  Thankfully those therapists are better and we’re still utilizing the grad student program. My son has two more semesters before he has to wait in line again and let someone else have a turn. I hope our wait isn’t too long next time.

    We also had to try the public school route which was a total disaster. His preschool was overcrowded and the speech therapist stopped seeing him and no one informed me. He was acting out and hurting his little sister. We were unbelievably lucky to talk to a speech therapist at a different school who also has a special needs child. She went above and beyond what she was supposed to and what was written in his IEP and saw him once a week, first in a group setting (which didn’t work too well) and then individually after the first year. Sadly we had to move out of her district so he can’t see her anymore. 🙁

    Early intervention is best.

    My son is now 8 and is delayed in his language abilities anywhere from 2 to 4 years. He doesn’t always understand what people are saying even though he’ll try to fake it and let them think he does. He’s gotten to the age where he understands that he doesn’t talk like everyone else and it makes him self conscious. He’s also picked up a sort of stutter because he worries about finding the right words. While he does have trouble understanding words, he’s also very perceptive about people’s feelings and attitudes. He’s gotten sensitive to the funny looks people give him when he takes the extra effort to say more than a couple of words to them.

    Just a week ago he finally started occasionally asking me what things and words mean. He’s never done that before. He is progressing but very slowly. I very much wish I’d gone with my mommy instinct and had him evaluated when I first began to suspect something was wrong. I also wish we hadn’t moved back to this part of CA and that we’d stayed where people actually seemed to give a rip what happened to him.

    There are definitely times where we as mamas can get too anxious over little things but there are also times where asking for help is what our children need the most. I’m sure you know that but it’s good to see both sides of the coin.

  11. Thanks for this post. I have to keep reminding myself that my daughter is fine. She 2 next month and still only talks a little – the odd word and once in a while 2 together. She definitely understands what we say to her and can make us understand her by pointing and gesturing etc and she’s saying enough words that no doctor would be concerned. It’s only that her older brother now 5 was such an early talker – several words at 7 months and talking in full sentences by 2. Of course he didn’t walk until nearly 18 months so talking was his way of manipulating the world while his sister is very physically able walking early and jumping and running. My children might look alike but they couldn’t be more different in other ways. I’m okay with it most of the time but we all have panic Mummy moments 🙂

  12. I have a 3 year old that talks non-stop too. He didn’t have as slow of a start as your son, but my how I wish I could back to that time when he said only a few words and didn’t chatter about EVERYTHING all day long! 🙂 I love him to death, but sometimes it is just too much! 🙂 

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