My 2-Year Old Isn’t Talking: Speech Delay and Milestones

Language development is one of the cornerstones of raising a healthy, confident child. Watching your child develop the ability to communicate through words can be both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. But what happens when your 2-year-old isn’t talking? If you’re worried about speech delay and milestones, you are not alone.

In this article, we will discuss in detail...

  • the typical language milestones for 2-year olds,
  • how to assess if your toddler has a speech delay, and
  • strategies to help encourage language development at home.
Let’s begin!
My 2-Year Old Isn't Talking Speech Delay and Milestones

Language Development in 2-Year-Olds

This stage in a toddler’s development holds a lot of exciting and important milestones.

Common Milestones

Before the age of 2, children usually have already hit the following milestones:

    • At 15 months of age, they should be saying a few words such as “mama” and “dada”, pointing to objects or people when they’re named, understanding simple commands, and making sounds to get attention.
    • 18-month-olds should be saying more or less 10-20 words, naming familiar objects such as “ball” or “dog”, using simple gestures like waving goodbye or nodding their head, and understanding simple questions such as “where’s your shoe?”
    • A 20-month-old baby would be saying around 50 words or more, combining two words together, such as “more juice” or “bye bye daddy”, using simple phrases like “thank you” or “all gone”, and following simple instructions such as “sit down” or “give me the book”.

By the time they reach 2, they usually already have a growing vocabulary that includes around 50 words. Most 2-year-olds can follow simple instructions and respond to their name when called. They may also be able to point out body parts correctly when asked and recognize familiar people and objects in books or pictures. They should be able to walk, run, and climb stairs with ease. They learn best through play and exploration, so it’s important to provide them opportunities for hands-on learning.

It is also important to remember that all children develop at different rates and there is no set pace for development. It is best to monitor your child’s progress regularly and speak with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

Sleep Habits and Developmental Delays

Sleep is incredibly important for a child’s development, as it is during sleep that the body and brain are able to rest and repair. Unfortunately, many children suffer from developmental delays due to inadequate sleep or poor sleeping habits.

Make sure your child gets enough hours of sleep every night–usually 12-14 hours for toddlers and 10-12 hours for preschoolers. Here are some tips:

    • Establish a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine that includes calming activities like taking a warm bath before going to bed.
    • Make sure the bedroom is dark and cool, devoid of any distractions like TV or electronics.
    • Avoid giving them caffeine or sugary snacks before bedtime.
    • Consider using a white noise machine in their bedroom to help them relax and sleep better.

Finally, if you think that your child’s development is being affected by inadequate sleep or poor sleeping habits, it may be time to consult a doctor or psychologist who can provide advice on how best to address the issue.

If your child isn’t meeting the language milestones discussed above, it may signal a speech delay. Speech delays can be addressed through early intervention, so it’s important not to wait too long if you’re concerned about your toddler’s language development.

Understanding Speech Delays - Apheleia

Understanding Speech Delays

The significance of speech delay cannot be understated. Delays can lead to long-term impacts, such as difficulty understanding and using language in school and social settings, lower self-esteem, and a decreased ability to express emotions. Delayed language development can put kids at risk for other developmental delays down the line.

What are the common causes and signs of speech delay?

The causes and signs of speech delay vary depending on the individual, however there are some common factors that can play a role. One of the most common causes for speech delay is hearing loss or difficulty processing sound. Other contributing factors may include autism spectrum disorder, genetic or neurological disorders, and developmental delays.

Signs of speech delay in children under 3 years old may include:

    • Difficulty producing sounds such as babbling or saying simple words like “mama” or “dada”,
    • Using only a few words,
    • Difficulty following directions,
    • Having poor eye contact,
    • Not responding to their name being called,
    • Difficulty understanding what is being said to them; and
    • Displaying delayed social skills.

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it is important to seek professional help from a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).

Seeking Help from a Speech Pathologist

The most common indication that a child may benefit from a medical professional’s assessment is when they have not started talking by 18 months or if they have difficulty using more than two words together. The SLP will conduct an evaluation of your child’s communication skills and recommend strategies and interventions to help them reach their age appropriate milestones.

They typically evaluate your child’s expressive language, which includes their ability to form words and sentences, their knowledge of grammar and syntax rules, and their vocabulary. Additionally they’ll assess receptive language skills including the ability to understand directions, complete simple tasks, and follow conversations.

After a thorough speech and language assessment, they will create an individualized treatment plan that may include activities and strategies for home use.

Strategies to Help With Communication Skills at Home

Strategies to Help With Communication Skills at Home

While all children develop at different rates, it is important to ensure that young children are given the best possible opportunities to learn language. As parents and caregivers, there are a few simple ways we can help foster speech development in our children and incorporating learning into their everyday activities.

Here are a few strategies:

1. Talk to your child often. Use simple language, sing songs, and play games that involve verbal interaction can help children to learn new words and concepts. It is also important to provide consistent opportunities for your child to practice their language skills in a variety of settings.

2. Utilize your body language. Use gestures and facial expressions to get your point across and respond positively when they attempt to vocalize or communicate with words.

3. Read to your child. Read aloud as often as possible, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Books are a great way to introduce new vocabulary, phrases, and concepts. Point out pictures while reading and encourage them to answer questions about the story.

4. Use familiar objects to promote conversation. This is a great way to promote conversation with your child. Start by playing with toys like cars, dolls, or stuffed animals. Ask questions about the toy and make observations about their features, shapes, and textures.

6. Limit screen time. Excessive screen time can interfere with language development and communication skills, so it’s important to limit your child’s exposure to screens and prioritize other forms of play and interaction.

7. Reduce background noise. Try to reduce background noise when you’re talking to your child, as it can be distracting and make it harder for them to focus on what you’re saying.

8. Serve them nutritious food. Healthy food plays an important role in your child’s development and can help boost their energy levels, which is key for language development.

These are just a few of the strategies you can try at home to aid in your child’s language development. It is especially helpful to provide positive feedback when they use words correctly or attempt to communicate their needs. This helps them understand that you are listening and encourages them to continue trying.

It is important to keep in mind that each child develops at their own pace and there is no “right” way for them to learn how to communicate. If you are worried about your child’s development, reach out to us so we can arrange your consultation with one of our Speech-Language Pathologists.

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Lauren Templeton - Apheleia Speech Therapy
Lauren Templeton

Owner & Speech-Language Pathologist

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