20 month old not talking – Delayed Speech in Toddlers

20 month old not talking delayed speech

A 20 month old not talking at all can be the start of warning bells ringing. Delayed speech in toddlers may simply be delayed speech. However, for another 20 month old not talking it could be the first red flag that their development needs to be reviewed by a speech pathologist or a health professional.

​Delayed speech in toddlers has been linked to a range of later difficulties during school. This is the case even when the speech is delayed but the toddler is understanding everything.

​The first step is to determine if the 20 month old not talking is able to still communicate their needs and wants but just not using spoken words (e.g., will point and gesture to you what they want). A toddler that is slow to say first words but is understanding and gesturing their needs is often referred to as a Late talker.

​If the 20 month old not talking is avoiding interactions all together, further investigations may be required. Some children may present with global developmental problems impacting on more than speech development. The delayed speech may be the first thing that parents and carers notice and hence can be the first red flag of concerns. Seeking an assessment by a child speech therapist or a child health professional.

How many words should a 20 month old toddler be saying

Spoken words: Not what they are understanding but what word a 20 month is SAYING.

AT RISK of being a late talker

= less than 100 spoken words

Doing OK for their age

= 101 to 359 spoken words

Heading towards Advanced for age

= 360+ spoken words.

Monitoring a child’s spoken word count using tools such as the SPOKEN WORD COUNTER can assist parents to monitor and know if they need to may need to seek early intervention services.  The Online Word Counter will check 500+ words in 17 different categories!  

A 20 month old not talking – seek advice from a Child Speech Therapist

It is not too early to see a speech pathologist if you have a 20 month old not talking. We can see from above that there is a big variation between children at 20 months in terms of the number of spoken words being used (101-359!). This big variation is often why people give advice to wait and see rather than seeing a speech pathologist. If a child is saying less than 76 words however this would be considered a definite developmental delay as this is the minimum number of words expected at 20 months. You can see how the expected number of words jumps very quickly month to month.

​The earlier parents and carers are given suggestions on how to boost delayed speech the more likely any underlying problems can be identified and addressed. Research has shown better outcomes when early intervention is obtained.

What does it mean if a 20 month old is not talking?

Late talking in the toddler period has been linked with a range of concerns impacting on them in later developmental periods. As toddlers head to the “terrible twos” early speech skills can help with the toddler behaviours and frustrations. If toddlers can use some simple words it can help them avoid or deal with biting episodes and being bullied. Early social skills and confidence is founded in these early word periods. If children use their words successfully to get their needs and wants met they are less likely to grab and hit out.

​Late talking in the early stages of development may also be a red flag for bigger concerns such as global developmental delays or even autism. Seeking advice as an early intervention precaution can alleviate these concerns. The reason to seek out a speech pathologist that particularly words with this young toddler period could just to get ideas on how to reduce the impact on late talking on their developmental potential. Understanding a parent’s role in boosting toddler talk is vital. Parent tips, resources and online parent programs (e.g., FOCUS ON TODDLER TALK) can assist parents in their role in encouraging talking skills.

20 month old not talking delayed speech
20 month old might be talking but can still have delayed toddler speech

A 20 month old is expected to be using a large range of different types of words. They typically are using words that names things (nouns such as ball, car, hair), that tell you what do with objects (verbs such as stir, drive, read, eat), how things feel or look (adjectives such as big, wet, cold, sticky) and position words (in, on, under). If a 20 month old is saying lots of words but the range of words used is limited, they would still be at risk of delayed toddler speech. By 24 months children are expected to be saying sentences. If a 20 month old is not using a range of words it will be hard for them to generate early sentences (e.g., dirty hands, Daddy go, read book, shoe on).

Completing an online SPOKEN WORD COUNTER can help you to list the different types of words your 20 month old is saying so you can observe if the range of words being said is broad or narrow. The results in this counter lists how many words are being said in a range of word categories. A 21 month old should have some words in each of the categories. This again highlights that a 21 month old not talking at all is showing a notable delay.

20 month old not talking – What can be done.

Seek advice from a Speech Pathologist or health professional if your 21 month old is not talking. Early intervention is always recommended. A Speech Pathologist will assist in a developmental assessment to find your child’s communication strengths and gaps. If concerns about other areas of development arise (e.g., global developmental delays) the speech pathologist will discuss with you other health professionals and contacts you can see to address any arising concerns. Medical, hearing, vision and other ears of development may be checked.

​See our Online programmes  information sessions, activities, home ideas and videos of Dr McMahon actually interacting and playing with children to demonstrate the play ideas taken from actual speech therapy sessions. 

If you have any concerns talk to your health professional. You can always send us an email info@speechnet.com.au and an early intervention Speech Pathologist will respond to you!

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