Q. “My eighteen-month-old son has far fewer words than the other kids in his play group. When should I worry? ”
A. No need to worry when you can do something about it right now. I’ve seen lots of guidelines for language development and they’re all helpful.
Two-month-olds should cry in many different tones and volumes if they’re not fed or picked up on time. They should not have only one pitch or volume.
Four-month-olds should respond to sound by “talking” to you. They laugh and vocalize responsively.
Six-month-olds babble a lot more and use syllables (meaningless syllables, usually) and consonants to express themselves
Eight-month-olds easily turn to their own names and have even more varied tones, pitches, inflections in their conversations with you. They sometimes look desperate as they try to say “mama” or “dada” to get your attention. They work hard at “studying” your mouth because you can mama, dada and doggy whenever you want and they’d like to be able to do that, too!!
By a year of age they have many more “words” involving more consonants and they are clearly trying out their voices and words while they play independently or when they talk to you.
Fifteen-month-olds combine gesturing and pointing with a few words to indicate their needs, likes and dislikes. They usually find the word “no” pretty quickly and use it. They are beginning to become frustrated at the disparity between the number of words they understand (a lot) and the number they can speak (very few) and that preverbal frustration is a big developmental milestone.
Eighteen-month-olds imitate our words, have a dozen or more words of their own—maybe a lot more—make animal sounds, and often will sing with us.
Two-year-olds talk. They have short sentences, use nouns, verbs, “read” books and point and have increasing frustration because they understand hundreds and hundreds of words but often can’t complete the answers to your questions.
Or not! . . . Many completely normal babies and toddlers lag behind the above guidelines and develop language a little slower. The key to this whole issue isyour observation of their peer group interactions and then truly following your gut instinct of how you think your child is behind. Certainly don’t ignore others’ advice or cautions, but you know your child better than anybody else.
Talk to your pediatrician and then see a good speech and language evaluator. If your instincts tell you your child’s language development is not progressing as you’d like, don’t take no for an answer.