17 month old not talking – Late Talkers in the Toddler years.

17 month old not talking

A 17 month old not talking would warrant attention. If a 17 month old toddler is not saying any words this would be considered delayed for their age. Several factors would need to be considered for a 17 month old not talking to work out if there is a definite delay or they just need a developmental boost. Factors such as whether they are trying to communicate with gestures or by pointing will help investigate possible underlying issues resulting in the child being a bit slow to talk.

​Early intervention would follow a different path if the 17 month old is

  • trying to communicate but can’t, versus
  • them just not being interested in interacting.

A Child Speech Therapist will assist parents and carers in investigating these factors. An initial consult can be a good starting point to help determine if in fact the 17 month old not talking is a Later Talker or whether they have other underlying issues holding back their talking skills (e.g., autism, global developmental delays, oral co-ordination issues).

What is a Late Talker?​

The term Late Talker typically refers to children between 18 and 30 months of age that are using no or limited spoken words compared to toddlers of the same age. If 17 month olds are not talking at all, this would be considered a developmental delay. It puts them at risk of presenting as Late Talkers.

​Factors such as the child’s level of understanding, use of gestures, eye contact, imitation skills or if there are any medical implications (e.g., ear infections, gross motor delays) need to be taken into consideration when a 17 month old is not talking.

​It would also be recommended that parents seek information and parent tips from parent friendly sources. An example would be the online Parent Program FOCUS on Toddler Talk.

17 month old not talking
How many words should my 17 month old say?

How many words should my 17 month old say? Well the typical range at this age is very broad (35 to 169)! Each toddler will have a vocabulary burst at slightly different times. Just like some children walk early, some children will talk early too. You can expect to hear new words being said regularly if not daily.

​At 18 months of age, toddlers most commonly hit the start of a very big spoken word increase (vocabulary burst). Hence a 17 month old not talking at all is not likely to be ready for this spoken vocabulary developmental burst. The rough guide below suggests how many words a 17 month should be saying to be considered at risk of being a Late Talker.

These number of words shown below relates to how many words a child is saying and not how many words they are understanding.

​Children commonly will point when asked to find lots of varied things before they start saying lots of new words (e.g., Where is the table, ball, tummy, fire truck) .

AT RISK of being a late talker for age at 17 months old

= < than 35 spoken words

Doing OK for their age at 17 months old

= 36 - 169 spoken words

Advanced for age at 17 months old

= 170+ spoken words

Before the big burst of new words occur, children are building their understanding of words. A 17 month old toddler is getting close to the expected burst at 18 months. Hence, they are very likely understanding more words than they are saying.

​Do the spoken words of 17 month need to be clear?

Many words a 17 month old is saying may are not clear like an adult would say them. For example, “pig” might sound like “pi__” or “pik”. Dr McMahon’s previous blog HOW TO DO A CORRECT WORD COUNT may be useful. Counting words accurately can help you see if your child’s speech development is on track. Count a child’s speech as having a “word” if they consistently say the word the same way (even if it’s said immaturely e.g., pi____). Use of the online SPOKEN WORD COUNTER may be useful as initial check of the actual words a toddler is saying.

17 month old not talking

​How to help a 17 month old not talking

To help a 17 month old not talking it is probably best to seek out a child speech pathologist experienced in working with young toddlers or contacting your health professional. Many parents are given the advice to “wait and see” because the point of when the vocabulary burst occurs can be variable in children. However. if a 17 month old is actually not saying any words then the wait and see approach would not be advisable. Early intervention services can help to tease out any underlying issues and begin to direct help to reduce the impact of any delays present.

​If they are saying some words, but perhaps not enough, then seeing an assessment or advice can still be warranted. A parent is in the best position to reduce the impact of late talking when they have good knowledge of language development. Parents can take on tips, ideas and resources that can change subtly how they interact in everyday moments with their child. These slight changes can really boost early toddler talking skills. See our video blogs and parent online programs and resources for practical ideas you can use today.

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