Speech Delay: A Joyous Nuisance

Photo of my 15-month-old son peeping above a cardboard box.

I haven’t written about it until now, but our 15-month-old boy isn’t talking. At all.

He babbled a little around the 11- to 12-month mark, possibly saying a word here or there, but never more than once… leading us to some wishful thinking. I reported his first word as being “kitty” when he used it in the context of pointing at our cat.

But then he fell silent. At our 1-year check-up, our pediatrician wasn’t worried. When we returned last week at 15 months, she again wasn’t worried. The reason being, my son exhibits no other warning signs, such as the symptoms parents think of when worrying about autism.

He makes eye contact. He seeks comfort from mom and dad. When his sister cries, he runs and rests his head on her. He points at things and grunts. He follows basic instructions (when he wants to!). He waves goodbye, at least sometimes.

The doctor is prepared to placate our fears with a hearing test. The next step would be an in-depth behavior analysis.

A few days ago we watched videos of our 5-year-old daughter’s earlier years. The difference between our kids couldn’t be more striking. She babbled nonstop while exhibiting extreme patience, an interest in books and a lack of interest in all the things parents don’t want kids touching.

Meanwhile, our son is quiet, extremely curious about everything around him, and best evaluates objects by climbing or throwing them. Books are of minor, occasional interest. If we accidentally open access to a forbidden object or area, he gravitates to it. He’s a handful.

All of this is probably normal, but the not-talking thing is worrisome. I cling to anecdotal stories, like one of my daughter’s friends who didn’t say a word until 18-months and today at 4-years-old seems fine.

Over the weekend my son finally began babbling. Last night he went to bed talking to himself and woke up at 2 a.m. babbling again, never quite getting back to sleep.

In such night-waking situations, a parent must be in the room, otherwise he’ll devolve into crying. So last night I slept on the floor and acknowledged him once in a while with a “Shhhhh” to send him back to sleep or into more babbling.

The same night-waking occurred with other milestones, such as pushing up, rolling over and crawling. Ohh how it drove us nuts for him to roll over in his sleep and instinctively try pushing up, resulting in his waking up.

And thus my usage of “joyous nuisance” in the title above. We’re happy, and hopeful that the recent trend will continue.

[In other news, fort party photos will be posted tomorrow.]


20 Responses to “Speech Delay: A Joyous Nuisance”

  1. Beckie Tetrault says:

    My son has a profound speech delay. I have been blessed to watch him blossom in speech therapy. He went from less the half a dozen words, supplemented with ASL and mommy-made picture cards, to 18-24 words in just 6 months!! He’s still a handful, but we suffer fewer communication frustration tantrums :)

    June 15th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

  2. Chris says:

    My husband did not speak until he was 2 years old and which time he spoke in complete sentences. He too had an older sister who spoke a lot, in some ways making his own speech unnecessary. Needless to say today he is perfectly articulate and no worse for wear. God bless

    June 15th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

  3. Laura Suer says:

    Both of my children have speech delays. My oldest a girl has Down Syndrome, but my youngest a boy is “normal,” or as we like to say “typical.” He too has a speech delay. Do not panic. Alot of children just take longer to start talking. It is good that you continuing to monitor the situation. If he is still not talking much by age two he probably can get speech therapy through early intervention services. Usually these early intervention services help kids “catch up” to their peers with time. Hang in there!

    June 15th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

  4. Danielle says:

    As the mom of a preemie whose been through PT, OT, vision, audiology and other assorted therapies, I would counsel you to consult early intervention.
    Don’t freak out or become overly concerned but in my opinion it can’t hurt to have him evaluated. We have had tremendous success with EI and I wholeheartedly endorse it. Be an advocate for your child. Our son was evaluated for a lot of services that he didn’t qualify for but the evaluators gave us a lot of tips and techniques that really helped us. If nothing else, it gave us peace of mind.

    June 15th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

  5. Liz says:

    I’m going through the exact same thing with my 16 mo old! i’m not too worried yet – he’s grunting and pointing and trying to communicate. Will re-evaluate when he’s 18-months. Thanks for the encouragement! :)

    June 15th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

  6. june says:

    If a fifteen-month-old communicates in any way (and even just grunting & pointing can communicate a lot), and responds to simple things you say in a way that indicates understanding, I think there is no need to worry. You might try introducing sign language, if you haven’t already. It was very helpful for DD, who did have a few words at that age but didn’t really talk reliably until eighteen months. JMHO. :)

    June 16th, 2009 at 6:49 am

  7. Amy says:

    Does your daughter speak for him? I have heard that if the older speak for the younger, they in turn do not speak because they don’t have to. I have also heard that a possible solution is to arrange for the older one to be away (sleep over with friend) so that the younger will have to speak…

    June 16th, 2009 at 8:28 am

  8. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    My 22-month-old still isn’t talking more than the same words he’s been using, since, basically 13 months old. Yes, I’m trying not to panic. He’s an only (for now) but both his mom and his dad were late talkers. And I tell myself he’s been making more noises lately (repeating after us “Per” “moo” “pop” etc.)

    Most of the boys I know are behind, communication wise, their same-age girl peers too.

    It’s Very obvious he hears and understands a LOT. Because he follows our commands and even goes to get shoes on/gets ready to go outside/goes to the kitchen/etc appropriately when we just mention certain words (so we’ve had to start spelling!) But for whatever reason, he doesn’t speak himself.

    June 16th, 2009 at 9:00 am

  9. Felice says:

    i can empathize with your concerns, fears, and positive self talk and rationlizing you are doing. My 15 mo, isn’t walking yet, crawling, crusing, moving everwhere that doesn’t require him to let go of whatever he is holding on to. We did have him checked by a therapist and right now no signs of anything wrong…so even though it is a differnt aspect of the development, i understand and will be waiting to hear all about his talking soon!!

    June 16th, 2009 at 9:05 am

  10. Natalie says:

    I am with the crowd that says to wait and see until at least 18 months. My daughter was an early talker, but a very late walker. Looking back, I wish I fretted less and enjoyed her baby days more. And, yes, the boys are later with speech acquisition skills, especially in the presence of chatty big sisters.

    June 16th, 2009 at 10:45 am

  11. MoJo says:

    When our son (2nd child) was 2 and still not talking is when we got worried. We did the hearing screen (everything fine), a development screen (also fine) and eventually did some speech therapy to move things along. By 3, he was where he should be and now at 4 you would never know how we struggled with his speech. Being the second child with an older sister who talked clearly before 1 year, our expectations were unrealistic. We also found some areas where we were at fault for making it too easy for him to get what he wanted/needed without having to fully communicate with words. If you aren’t happy with the answers that your doctor gives you (ours was too lax in our opinon), check out the regional center. They offer no cost screening and reassurance if nothing else.

    June 16th, 2009 at 11:00 am

  12. anjii says:

    I second the use of sign language. In the moment, it reduces frustration due to not being understood, and in the long term, it builds more language synapses in the brain, and adds another dimension to their language abilities.

    We signed with both kids. Wyatt was talking in LONG sentences by 1 1/2, and dropped the sign language pretty quickly. Dawson is a preemie, with slightly slower verbal skills (starting to pick up speed now at 21 months), who has over 85 signs, and LOVES watching his Signing Time dvds. As it turns out, we recently found out he also has chronic ear fluid buildup, which has the effect of constant earplugs (he hears, but not the lower volumes), so our Developmental worker is grateful that we’ve been signing from the beginning.

    June 16th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

  13. Jen says:

    I remember my second neice didn’t speak much until she was 3, so it makes me feel a little better that my younger daughter doesn’t say much either. She will be 3 at the end of the month.
    When I look at videos of my 4 year old daughter when she turned 2, she probably said more than my younger one is saying at almost 3. Of course, size wise is the same thing… my younger one at her 3 year checkup will be the height her sister was at her 2 year checkup! Crazy!

    I’m sure in a few months my daughters speech will take off and I will miss these silent (though tantrum filled) days! :-)

    June 16th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

  14. KGS says:

    I can understand why you’re worried– it’s so hard to just wait and see, but it sounds like for the moment that’s all you can do. Just to add to your store of hopeful andectodes while you wait for tests… My brother didn’t talk until he was almost two, probably due to the “chatty big sister effect.” More worrisome for the parents, a friend of mine’s younger brother didn’t speak until he was four. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but he was essentially silent. Their parents enrolled him in a preschool program for deaf and mute children. He’d been going there for some time when he suddenly began speaking aloud in sentences. He very quickly “caught up,” but no one ever figured out what the delay was about. Human brains are such strange things!

    June 17th, 2009 at 10:23 am

  15. Rex says:

    Do not hesitate in taking him to a speech therapist. My son was in the same situation, and a few weeks of therapy “clicked” with him and he had the vocabulary of a 4 year old by 24 months. The worst thing to do is wait and see if he “gets it.”

    June 17th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

  16. Amber says:

    My son was walking full-time when he was 10 months old, but when I started a job outside the home the month he turned two, he babbled a lot but said nothing clearly but “mommy”, “daddy” and “ball”.

    After three months in daycare, he was acquiring words like crazy and speaking basic sentences.

    Part of it, I think, was that he’s so far an only child and really liked mimicking/learning with the little boy his age at daycare, but I’m pretty sure most of it was just timing. It was like someone flipped a switch, and he turned into a word sponge.

    Everything in its own time.

    June 17th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  17. Dallas says:

    Please don’t worry. Our little girl didn’t have much to say before about 18-19 months, at ALL. She didn’t show any other signs of anything being wrong either — hearing tests were fine too.

    Now she’s 25 months and talks all the time. Since I’m a stay at home mom, and she has no siblings, I honestly think she really didn’t have much to say.

    Also, I have read that some children who have an older sibling take a bit longer.

    Our daughter, in the space of about 3 weeks, went from saying very very little to talking non-stop. (And when I say “very very little”, I mean she said “dada” and “dog”.)

    Please don’t worry… like a previous poster, my experience was that is was like someone “flipped a switch” — practically overnight.

    June 22nd, 2009 at 10:55 am

  18. newmom says:

    My nephew did not have more than 10 words until he was 2 1/2. He was a first child, so my brother and wife had nothing to compare it to, which I think was a blessing. I am a teacher so I was concerned but tried to follow their lead. The doctor said if he wasn’t talking more by 2 1/2, than have him evaluated. Just before Christmas of last year he started talking, and HAS NOT STOPPED! The difference is night and day. I’m talking full sentences, repeating adults, and using big words that just floor me. He’ll be 3 tomorrow and is perfectly normal! Try not to compare to your 5 year old — I see parents do this all the time and it will only make you crazy.

    June 23rd, 2009 at 8:08 am

  19. Michelle says:

    My husband started talking soon after his first birthday, then abruptly stopped and didn’t say another word until he was nearly three. It was partly a) His way of being contrary (he wasn’t going to be a performing monkey) and b) His perfectionist streak making itself known.
    As an adult, he is softly-spoken but quite eloquent.

    June 24th, 2009 at 3:53 am

  20. Sarah M says:

    My 22 month old isnt talking yet either, he babbles a lot and makes a lot of noise but has only a few words and even those arent pronounced correctly. He’s still an only child and being raised bilingual so I’m not worried yet, just impatient to get to the next milestone, comparing gets really tough, his cousin is 5 weeks younger than him and has a vast vocabulary, but she has 3 older siblings and she loves to copy everyone, unlike my son who just does things his own way barely copies. He will speak when he speaks :)

    August 2nd, 2009 at 5:17 am

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