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Are you worried because your 2-year-old is not talking yet? Or are you wondering if it’s normal for them to scream more than they talk, or to seem to understand everything but not talk?
Having a 2-year-old who is not talking yet – or who talks very little – is more common than you think. Research  suggests that up to 10% of preschool children have a speech delay. We also know that speech and language delays affect more boys than girls.
However common it may be, having a 2-year-old who is not yet talking is often worrying for parents.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons that might explain why your 2-year-old isn’t talking yet.
We’ll also look at some of the strategies you can use to help them develop their language and speech skills, and we’ll see when you should seek professional help if your 2-year-old is not talking yet.
2 year old not talking: Common reasons for your child’s behavior
There are many reasons that can explain why your two year old is not talking yet. Here are some of the most common ones:
1) They’re taking their time: All children develop at their own pace, and that pace may be slower than other children their age.
While this is frustrating for most parents, it is normal and common behavior in childhood. Science has shown that most children with speech and language delays (maturational delays) eventually catch up with their peers before the age of four.
2) Hearing problems can cause speech delays in children and this makes perfect sense. If your child cannot hear the words being spoken around them, they cannot repeat them. Most doctors will check for hearing problems when your child visits the doctor.
3) Children who grow up in a bilingual environment may experience delays because they have more languages to process. However, most overcome these delays by the time they start school.
4) Although rare, developmental delays may be the reason why your 2-year-old is not talking yet. This is a problem with your child’s cognitive skills, which also affects speech.
5) Neurological conditions such as autism and ADHD can also explain why your 2-year-old is not talking yet.
Common speech/language related behaviors in two year olds
While it is difficult to give specific statistics such as “exactly what a 2-year-old should be able to say” or “the exact number of words a baby can say at the age of two”, some speech and language-related behaviors can be observed in the majority of children at the age of two.
For example, most 2-year-olds are able to
1) Communicate, for example, by pointing to what they want
2) Talk to themselves (babble)
3) Say simple one or two word phrases such as “give banana” (more like “give nana” 😊)
4) Say at least five simple words
5) Understand and respond to simple instructions/questions: “Where’s Teddy?”
6) Enjoy and participate in simple rhymes and songs
7) Point to pictures in books and repeat words back to you
8) Imitate different sounds
Speech and language are not the same thing, but they are related. The more your child is exposed to the spoken word, the more words he or she will learn and be able to use.
The good news is that simple strategies can help improve your 2-year-old’s speech and language skills. 2 year old not talking? Here are five things you can try at home.
Five things you can do to help
1) Talk, talk, talk – there is scientific evidence that the more your child is exposed to the spoken word, the more his or her vocabulary expands.
2) Give your child opportunities to interact with other children. Even a part-time place in a day-care center can do wonders for their speech and language development.
3) Name as many things as possible in your child’s presence. If they point to something, name it. If you’re reading a book with pictures, name the picture. Point to and name different parts of the body when you are dressing your child.
4) Praise your child every time he or she gets a word right to make sure he or she repeats it.
5) Read as much as possible. Choose colorful books with few words to keep your child’s attention and point to and name the pictures you see. Great options at two years old include Use Your Words, Sophie, Wheels on the Bus, Up, Up, Up, Down! and Duck & Goose, 1, 2, 3.
When should you worry ?
There is often nothing to worry about if your two-year-old is only babbling. Childhood is not a race, and many children will catch up with any delays they may have.
However, speech delays can be a sign of something more serious, and the sooner your child gets the help he or she needs, the easier it is to prevent the delays from affecting future development.
Please speak to a professional if your 2-year-old:
– Say less than six words
– Does not speak at all
– Has great difficulty understanding simple questions or instructions
– Is unresponsive when spoken to and does not make eye contact
Frequently Asked Questions
How many words can a 2 year old say?
There are many different opinions about how many words a 2-year-old “should” be able to say. What we do know is that at this stage, children can understand the words they hear most in their environment, as well as simple questions and instructions – “pick up Teddy”.
My 2-year-old does not speak but understands everything. Is this normal?
It is not unusual to have a two-year-old who is not talking but who understands everything. It may simply be a case of your child taking his or her time.
Some experts have found that a “language explosion” occurs in children around this age, meaning that your child can go from saying 10 words to 250 words in no time. However, please talk to your child’s doctor if your child is not talking at all.
2 year old not talking but makes sounds. Should I be concerned?
At this age, even the sounds your child makes (or imitations of the family pet) are considered words, but if you are concerned about your child’s speech delay, talk to your doctor.
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