16 month old not talking! What can I do?
A 16 month old not talking at all should at least be monitored. We have all heard that children grow at their own rates. We know some children walk early and others don’t. Similarly, some 16 month old children may talk early and some 16 month olds may not be talking. First words (not including Mummu and Dada) typically emerge at 12 months of age.
By 16 months it fine if your 16 month old is saying anywhere from 31 to 139 words! The variation for the number of spoken words at this age is huge. If a 16 month old is not talking at although, it would be considered a developmental expressive communication delay. If a 16 month old is saying less than 30 words spontaneously they would definitely be considered to be at risk of being a late talker for his or her age.
Does this mean my child is a late talker?
A late talker generally refers to 18 – 30 month old children that are saying less words than expected for the specific age yet with no other major or obvious contributing factors.
What can I do?
If you complete a SPOKEN WORD COUNTER and a low word count is obtained, parents are recommended to seek parent tips and ideas to help boost speech during everyday interactions. SpeechNet Speech Pathology for example provides blogs and online courses, face-to-face clinic assessment or Skype based services.
If your 16 month old is not talking as expected
Doctors, health nurses and child speech pathologists may investigate other areas of development in case other concerns are “causing” the child to be a later talker (e.g., early signs of developmental impairments such as autism, intellectual impairment or global developmental delays, problems with understanding).
What should we be seeing?
A closer look to see if the child is “talking” to those around them but just not using “real words” to talk will give more information as whether you should be worried or not. We would be wanting to at least hear a big range of babble if a 16 month old is not talking in real words. We want to see the 16 month old child is keen to “interact” with adults by gesturing their needs, making eye contact, taking toys to an adult to share in the play time. Early intervention services by speech pathologists that particularly work with this young age group would be warranted if a 16 month old is not “talking” in gestures or words!
How many words should my 16 month old be saying?
Spoken words: Not what they understand but what word a 16 month is SAYING
AT RISK of being a late talker at 16 months old
= less than 30 spoken words
Doing OK for their age at 16 months old
= 31 to 139 spoken words
Heading towards Advanced for age at 16 months old
= 140+ spoken words
What words do I count?
Many words a 16 month old is saying may not be completely clear e.g. “dog” might sound like “gog” or “do_”. This is not considered a problem at 16 months of age. As discussed in Dr McMahon’s previous blog HOW TO DO A CORRECT WORD COUNT, to see if your child’s speech development is on track, count the child’s speech as having a “word” if they consistently say the word the same way (even if it’s wrong e.g. “do __”) every time try to say “dog”.
Completing a “proper” Spoken Word Count such as the online The SPOKEN WORD COUNTER a great way to monitor if your child’s early speech development is developing as expected. Seeing a SPEECH PATHOLOGIST trained in early intervention can be costly so having some ideas of what your child is capable of before you attend a session can be more cost effective. “How many words do you think your 16 month old child is saying?” is the first thing a speech pathologist is likely to ask?
- The number of expected spoken words for children 6 months to 30 months by monthly steps are provided in the results section of the Spoken Word Counter.
My 16 month old is not talking so do I wait and see if they grow out of it?
Early intervention is always recommended. This can come in the form of direct clinic support, parents reading up tips, resources and games they can use to boost speech and language at home or watching experienced speech pathologists demonstrate what to look for with an online programme such as FOCUS ON TODDLER TALK. Sometimes, just slightly changing our expectations for the young child to try to talk or playing games slightly differently can really boost early spoken vocabularies. Research has shown that early delayed vocabularies can even impact on reading and written skills at 13 and 17 years of age compared to their same age peers if early intervention is not sought!
If you have any concerns talk to your health professional or speech pathologist. You can always send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and an early intervention Speech Pathologist will respond to you!
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Rescorla L1. (2009). Age 17 language and reading outcomes in late-talking toddlers: support for a dimensional perspective on language delay. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2009 Feb;52(1):16-30.