Prev Next
Dispatches From Speech Delay Island

Dispatches From Speech Delay Island

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

My precious, amazing, easy-going, astoundingly beautiful 20-month old just will not talk. A few weeks ago, his doctor guessed he was on the verge of his language explosion and said she’d give us a referral if we really wanted, but suggested waiting awhile because everything else was fine.

He was not on the verge of a language explosion. If anything, he’s lost a couple words. And a few days ago, I read a cheerful article about not worrying if your child isn’t talking much yet, because some children this age only have ten words, and I just snapped, because “ONLY ten words?!”

He does not have that. He doesn’t have even half that.

I know kids develop at different rates. I know that every other single thing about him points to, “he’s fine.” But I’ve been worrying about him since he wasn’t babbling on time and I can’t deal anymore. If nothing else, I’ll get an expert opinion telling me things are Just Fine, Wait and See. Or we’ll be equipped with something to do to help him.

So, I more or less told my husband I was calling and getting the referral. He’s not really on board, but he didn’t really argue or anything. And I got the referral and it got set up so fast.

My husband doesn’t want to talk about it. And I keep telling different people about it, friends, relatives, and they’re all great and supportive. They’ve listened to my worries before. But I just keep compulsively finding people to tell, I don’t know why, maybe waiting for someone to say just the right thing and understand. And it’s ridiculous, in a way, because nothing anyone says will take away the fact that I am scared something is wrong with my child.

And the other thing is, no one in my circle has really gone through anything like this. So, I can’t really believe assurances that it will be okay. Everyone is lovely and supportive and I still feel terribly lonely with this.

I’m not really writing with a question. I guess I’m more just writing because I just needed to share the worry with someone who has been here, or somewhere like here, so I could not feel so alone and scared.

Thank you for listening,

You’re doing the right thing. I repeat: YOU’RE DOING THE RIGHT THING.

And I’m not saying that, incidentally, because I necessarily think there is something “wrong” with your child. Because here’s a little dirty secret: There’s something “wrong” with everybody’s child. Because everybody’s child is a human being, and human beings are not ever, at all, even a little bit, “perfect.” Thus, no baby, no child, no teen, no adult, is “perfect.” We are all flawed and complicated and different and have “stuff” we struggle with or need to work on. Speech can be part of that stuff. Or motor skills, social skills, academic skills — every child eventually runs into their stuff.

But I completely, 100% understand how HARD and SCARY and UNFAIR it can feel to have your child’s stuff crop up sooner than everybody else’s child’s stuff. There’s a bit of a grief/mourning process, as you say goodbye to the days where you lived in a breathless bubble of “he’s perfect!” Like you, I was completely alone when my firstborn was identified as speech-delayed (around 22 months).  And then pervasively-delayed across a whole spectrum of stuff. In fact, it felt like I was surrounded by nothing but early talkers and fearlessly typical, “perfect” little toddlers. And moms who stared at me blankly, because heavy stuff, man. I can’t really relate and don’t know what to say so I’ll just tell you the story about how Einstein didn’t talk until he was four/five/nine years old for the millionth time.  (For the record, he was three.)

That’s probably why I turned to the Internet and blogged my way through the Early Intervention roller coaster. And it’s probably why you wrote this question. So let me loop back and say this one more time: You’re doing the right thing. Also, I know. I understand.

The worst thing — my absolutely most least favorite thing — is and always has been the days leading up to a new evaluation or appointment. Even now! After going through countless evals and meetings and therapists and whatnot, I still get a little nervous/stiff/panicky ahead of time. So this point right now? Where you are? It’s the worst part. Yes, probably even worse than getting your fears confirmed with a delay diagnosis, because then you KNOW. You can move on to the DEALING WITH IT part. The PLAN and ACTION part. The part where you can GET SHIT DONE.

For the record, speech delays, on their own? No big thang. A flesh wound. I can’t tell you the number of parents I NOW know, in the elementary school world, who are all, “oh yeah, my kid had speech therapy too.” And you would never, ever in a million years peg that child as having trouble talking. We place way, way too much emphasis on verbal skills, I think, and tend to use them as a marker of general intelligence or future academic success. As a mother with three children who were all OVER the verbal development map, I place my hands on my mouth and make obnoxious farting pfffffftttttt noises in that theory’s direction, because WRONG.

But for the record, early speech therapy is awesome and fun. I learned SO MUCH from it. And with the right therapist and guidance you might see results in no time. Particularly at this young age, because sometimes toddlers just don’t talk because they don’t see the point. You might not realize that you’re pre-fulfilling his every need and request before he has to make it — because you know him and his schedule and are loving and attentive, which are good! But sometimes, for some kids, you need to shut up and listen. And wait. And give them a little more desperate motivation to tell you what they want or need. (And here’s where I insert my standard go-to recommendations for speech-delayed toddlers: The Hanen Program’s It Takes Two to Talk and Signing Time [DVDs or Amazon Streaming]).

But I’m getting way ahead of myself here, and ahead of you and your child. Who might not even be officially speech delayed yet! 20 months is still definitely, totally early-to-borderline! But again, I think you’re doing the right thing because you’re following your gut. Your instincts, whatever. Some might call it first-time motherhood neurosis or something, but go ahead and pfffffftttt in their direction too. You know your child. You know what you’re thinking and feeling and suspecting and it’s GOOD to just deal with it. Check it out. If you’re not comfortable rolling the wait-and-see dice anymore, stop and schedule an eval. It’s not going to hurt anybody and no therapist is going to like, yell at you for wasting their time if your son wakes up that morning with 10 magical new words.

Here’s a secret, though: Your son’s language development does indeed sound a lot like Noah’s, which is another reason why I suspect you wrote me. But it also sounds a lot like…Ike’s. Who my husband worried about a LOT. He was fairly convinced we needed to get Ike evaluated because…well, NOAH. We’d been through it before.

But I didn’t schedule an evaluation. I didn’t turn to the Internet to wring out my fears. I didn’t tell anyone that yeah, Ike toe-walked on occasion too. I didn’t ignore it or stick my head in the sand, but I listened to my gut. And my gut was telling me loud and clear that Ike was fine. He understood everything we said but was quiet because his older brothers talked for him, and because my husband and I totally fell into the habit of pre-fulfilling every need in order to keep our bustling, chaotic household rolling smoothly. If he had sensory issues, they were extremely mild and stuff that I felt (from years of reading and interacting with experts and other special needs kids) I could address at home with the right activities and games. (Book rec! The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun! Totally essential!) I upped his enrollment in his toddler Montessori program five mornings a week to increase his interaction with peers, because I suspected that the classroom environment would “force” him to speak up and make his needs known better than being cared for one-on-one by me or a babysitter.

Guess what? I DID THE RIGHT THING. It took until 26/27 months, but Ike’s language fully and totally EXPLODED. He skipped right from a decent-ish list of single words to full sentences. Paragraphs! Nouns, verbs, abstract concepts, please and thank you, for God’s sake. The toe-walking disappeared and thankfully, so did our fears.

I’m not sharing that anecdote because I think THAT’S what you should do, by the way, like some obnoxious “this is what worked for myyyyyy child so therefore blah blah smuggy smug smug smug.” It’s more of a testament to The Mother’s Gut, and the Importance of Following It. We doubt and question ourselves so damn much, but really, we’ve got this. We know this. We know our children and we know what our children need — from us, or from someone who knows more than us. And so do you. Because you’re doing the right thing.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • GradBaby

    October 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I just have to comment on this one because it very much could have been me writing 6 months ago. My awesome now 2 year old didn’t talk at 20 months and I had him evaluated. It has been an interesting journey thus far, and certainly not one I expected.

    After worrying, I contacted a local birth-3 program a mom recommended to me. They came out and did a holistic evaluation of his skills with two nice women and a Russian translator (we’re a bilingual family). Their conclusion was that he showed significant delays in both receptive and expressive language… as well as in cognitive development. They mentioned sensory issues or even autism. . . and I was really worried but my mama gut also said he’s ok. They messed up the follow-up parts of the eval/using services so I decided not to work with this organization and wait and see just a bit. After all, he was only 20 months and seemed fine (even though they said he didn’t). Over the summer he learned 1 word (“ish” for push) and he started to point. By July, after consulting with his pediatrician who confirmed that he seemed fine just not talking,  I decided to have him evaluated at our local children’s hospital’s neurodevelopment clinic. The doctor there met with him twice and confirmed my gut instinct – my son is developing normally except for speech. He seems engaged and interested he just doesn’t express himself in words. We’ve now done a hearing evaluation and I’m making the arrangements for speech therapy.

    I guess I’m writing all this to confirm the message of this post – TRUST YOUR GUT. The evaluators will only meet your child once. If the eval goes somewhere you didn’t expect, consider it but also know what you know and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.

    My son is now 25 months and says “bye-bye” “ish” “yeah” and “ba” (for a lot of things – book, papa, look) and that’s about it. He babbles a lot and also shrieks to get what he wants. He will take our hand or pull on our pants to show us what he wants but he still isn’t talking, but I know that I have a team put together that I trust and I know that he will be fine. 

    Good luck to you and your son!

    • Sara

      January 13, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Gradbaby, My twins boy/girl also have both receptive and expressive language delays. I’m very depressed worried they may be autistic but they are both loving kids with good eye contact just don’t talk. I was wondering how things worked out with your son?

  • Jeannie

    October 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I had a completely different issue with my daughter — she didn’t eat anything other than breast milk until she was 13-14 months. No, that wasn’t a typo. We got her checked out by a paediatrician and a development specialist and there was talk of motor skills and physical issues and OT and medical tests and procedures and yet … My gut said she was fine. Her brother was a late eater too (10 months). We waited. And lo and behold she picked it up and managed to get down a goldfish cracker before she was 16 months, the pediatrician’s “deadline”. 

    By this I mean to say — get it checked out. It’s always good to hear other people’s thoughts and you may learn something. And better to address it now if you can. But he may just be taking his time, too. 

  • MG

    October 18, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I assume that “everything else is fine” means that you’ve had his hearing tested?

    Otherwise, I’m just adding to the chorus — get it checked out so you can stop worrying (even if it means you start worrying about something else, like Amalah said, at least then you’ll have a way forward — and your amazing son will still be your amazing son.)

    We had Early Intervention with our son (preemie, hearing loss) and at least for us, they were wonderful to work with.

    Best of luck to you and your son!

  • Sara

    October 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I’m also chiming in to offer virtual hugs and emphatically nodding my head to TRUST YOUR GUT. My son actually had gross motor delays, so a bit different, but sort of the same – his pediatrician waived it off cause there’s a range for walking, etc and it’s fine, blah blah blah. But my gut told me otherwise and I also contacted a birth-3 program that will evaluate your child without a doctor’s referral and if they qualify, will bring it back to the doctor (and usually at that point the doctor will agree to move forward with services). It was the best thing I could’ve done. Even when we would have some set backs, it was so comforting to know that I could have long, detailed conversations with the therapist about my concerns and what we could do. I can’t tell you how much that helped – and while your husband may not be on the same page, perhaps he would be willing to just do an evaluation? It’s a small step that could give you SO much information (for instance, the program we went with said that even if my son didn’t qualify for services, they would give us a bunch of suggestions and ideas to help in the meantime, so it didn’t feel like a waste of time). Best of luck to you!!

  • Sarah in Georgia

    October 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    My son was in speech therapy through my state’s birth-3 program for the last year; at his recent yearly evaluation, he did so well he no longer qualifies for services. The therapy has been great, but I have also been grateful for someone who knows what they are talking about to answer all of my first-time-mom questions. Please go ahead with the evaluation–I was surprised at the things the initial evaluation asked about that my son already knew, and about the things that had never occurred to me to do (I hadn’t ever considered having a tea party with my 18-month-old son.) Which is just all to say “AMEN” to the post and the previous comments.

  • Kat

    October 19, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I have absolutely no personal experience on this one – but I just wanted to give you a virtual hug and agree with Amalah. We know our babies best, and sometimes checking in with a professional is a great way to learn a little bit. May turn into nothing, might be something, You sound like a wonderful mom, your love for your son is very apparent and no matter what happens he is extremely lucky to have you to help him through it (even if “it”) turns out to be nothing.

  • Delora

    October 19, 2013 at 2:49 am

    My older son was a bit of a late talker. At 18mos, he only had 3-4 words, so his Ped gave us a referral to Child Find if we thought it worth pursuing. At that point I didn’t, so took a wait and see approach. By 21mos he still hadn’t gained much ground, so we did the eval, but didn’t show to be significantly delayed and didn’t qualify for services. He ended up having a language explosion between 22-24mos, and slowly began to catch back up.

    This scenario set the tone for my younger son. At 18mos he wasn’t talking at all (zero words), but I wasn’t concerned. By 21mos, he still wasn’t talking, so we began doing the Baby Signing Time DVDs with him since the lack of communication was getting frustrated for all of us. At his 2yr checkup in January, he only had maybe 5 words, even though his language receptive skills seemed to be fine (I could ask him to go get his shoes from his bedroom and he would; point to the car and he would, etc). The Ped recommended an eval with Child Find, so I scheduled the eval that week. And then waited, because the earliest appointment was in 8 weeks. The initial evaluation was a high-level comprehensive evaluation of gross and fine motor skills, social skills, and language. Even though my only concern was expressive language, they still checked everything. He did show as being significantly delayed, so they had to schedule a follow-up evaluation for just that area. So we waited again, because it was another 6 weeks until the next available appointment.

    That evaluation showed a huge delay. At this point he was about 28mos, and still only had less than 10 words. We got approved for services, had his IEP meeting, and then that took us into the beginning of June. Services are only offered during the school year, so he didn’t see a resource teacher until September – 9 months after we started the whole process! However, he did have a little language explosion over the summer while we waited, and by the time we met with the teacher in Sept, I really didn’t have any concerns anymore. Yes, he was still significantly delayed, but he’d made such huge strides on his own. 

    Anyway, I’m not entirely sure why I’m telling you my whole story, other than to say I’ve been there on both sides of the evaluation issue. With my oldest I worried and he was fine. With my youngest I didn’t really worry, and he wasn’t fine. But now he is. And realistically, most kids will catch up on their own if they have a speech delay, but you know what? Services through your county are federally mandated and are free of charge, so take advantage of them if you can. Your son’s delay may be nothing (20mos is still really young), but it may be something. And it will be less frustrating for your entire family if you get some help early on. By 20mo kids are forming opinions and want to express themselves and their wants, and when they can’t, it leads to screaming and tears. If you don’t qualify for services at this time, I would also recommend the Signing Time DVDs. They can really help your child understand that there are ways to communicate with his parents, so even if the speech isn’t quite there yet, he’s still getting his wants met.

  • Carolyn

    October 19, 2013 at 4:43 am

    We’ve had a VERY similar journey as you have! I worked for years with kids with Autism, and so when I started thinking something was up with my son around 18 months, everyone suggested I was just paranoid from my job. I brought it up a few times with my son’s pediatrician, who suggested we wait and see, since 18 months is still awfully early. When he was around 22 months and still not saying “mama” or “dada” we started speech therapy. It was only twice a month and I wasn’t always sure if the progress my son made was due to the speech therapy itself, or just time and developing at his own pace, but it made ME feel better to have someone to ask questions of and bounce ideas off of, even if my son wasn’t speaking more because of our visits there. It was also good to have someone say that no, I wasn’t crazy for being concerned, even if he was still a bit too young to do any real conclusive testing (was it an auditory processing issue? An oral motor issue? A motor planning issue? Who knows! He had some weird bits and pieces of a variety of things). So it may or may not have made a difference for him to go to speech therapy, but it certainly didn’t hurt! We also started with the It Takes Two To Talk program, which is amazing for a certain kind of child, but after giving it a few months I decided that it just wasn’t working for my son, and we needed to try something else. Our therapist was great and trusted my gut with me, and he did much better with a different approach. Now he’s a bit over 2.5 years old, and old enough that they’ve recommended he start going 1-2 times per week (instead of per month). I’m still not sure if he’ll benefit directly from the work he does there, but again, it certainly can’t hurt to try (and I would feel AWFUL if I opted out of the therapy and later wished we’d stuck with it). It is REALLY hard to see my friends’ children, who are younger than my son and SO far ahead of him verbally. That part, that seeing your child struggle with something that comes so easily to lots of other kids, is ROUGH. But at the end of the day, if something is going to be “wrong” with my son, an expressive language delay is probably one of the better options 😉 Big hugs and you’re not alone, mama!

  • Abby

    October 19, 2013 at 11:22 am

    You sound just like us. Husband and dr said he was fine. No one was worried but me.! However, NO words-every milestone–no words! I had him evaluated he had speech therapy for a year-so much fun (minus one social work that told me he would have been better off in daycare-because they would have made him speak-(he knew sign language -so he could sign what he wanted. lots of guilt and crying because of her–many others assuring me that itwasn’t my fault that he didn’t speak). Then we went to my sisters beach wedding. We came home and he told the speech therapist all about the wedding. Hasn’t stopped talking yet. I am so happy we did therapy!

  • Amy

    October 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Comments – tl;dr

    When we went to my son’s 2 year check up I was not happy with how much he was talking.  Everyone assured me that it was because he had two older sisters who spoke for him, or because he was a boy and boys are slower to talk, or whatever, but I was concerned, and I’m his mother, so we did something…

    We took 6 months of speech therapy (which, by the way, was completely covered by our health insurance and 100% free to us, hopefully yours will be too), and now I can’t get that child to stop talking.  He caught up 150%, and he’s now able to show us how clever he has been all along.

    Who can say whether it was the speech therapy or whether he would’ve gotten here on his own?  But I haven’t regretted our decision because there was something I could do to fix the problem and I did it.  If I were looking back from here, having done nothing, and he still wasn’t talking I would have so much regret over that lost year.

    Your husband is probably afraid to find out that your kid is “retarded” – and I’ll bet that’s why he won’t talk about it.  Fear is a very uncomfortable emotion for dads – after all, if your child is “retarded” he thinks there’s nothing he can do to fix it.  Please assure him that many typical kids have speech delays and get speech therapy and it’s no BFD.  And if there is something deeper going on, early intervention can make a huge difference in the eventual outcome.

    (PS – I hate that R word, I was a special ed teacher, I never ever use it as a pejorative.)

    You’re not alone.  There’s a whole world of us on the internet who have done exactly what you’re doing, and you’re doing the right thing.

    By the way, the speech therapy process is basically “annoy the baby until he talks.”  The therapist held up a spoon full of pudding in front of my son and said, “PUDDING?  P-P-PUDDING?  Puh Puh Puh…” forEVER and wouldn’t give him the godblessed pudding until he had a go at saying the P sound.  So. Freaking. Irritating.  Especially in the beginning when he had no idea what was going on and some stranger was coming over at lunch and annoying him. 

    • Kate

      October 25, 2013 at 2:39 am

       “annoy the baby until he talks.”

      Best description of speech therapy ever 🙂 I’m so glad we’re past that point of the process.

  • Helen

    October 19, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    My son was fairly severely speech delayed, and I took my pediatrician’s advice to wait and see for some time… crappy pediatrician. But even though we started speech therapy later than what might have been ideal, my son still made excellent progress. His speech still isn’t perfect, but having gotten him in the system, he still gets therapy (age 6), and he’s still improving. He talks ALL THE TIME and omg he’s so bright.
    Also, early speech therapy is really fun – my son preferred it to preschool (I remember one morning walking up the path to preschool dragging a screaming child who was shouting “want therapy! Want therapy! at the top of his voice). So what I’m saying, I guess, is that a speech delay needn’t necessarily be The Worst Thing Ever, and even if you don’t Get Things Right Straight Away things will work out ok (having said that, I think you’re doing exactly the right thing in getting the assessment). Good luck!

  • Danielle

    October 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Just wanted to add my weight to the Go with your Gut and Do the Evaluation camp. We started to worry about our son’s lack of language when he was 18 mos. old, but our pediatrician at the time was in the wait-and-see camp. We moved at around that same time from a state with almost-no Early Intervention services to one with incredibly robust services where, at our son’s two-year well-child exam, the pediatrician encouraged us very strongly to pursue an evaluation, which was great, because we really wanted to do that anyway! Our instincts were right, and our son was diagnosed at 24 mos. with high-functioning classic autism. (We were very lucky in that we got a nice, specific diagnosis at our first evaluation that opened the door to robust EI services in one state, and robust pre-school speical ed services in the state we settled in permanently.) At almost-five, our son now sings his baby sister the Signing Time songs he learned back in the day, along with a whole repertoire of new songs, songs in which he spells new and exciting words with lots of letters, and has also caught up in fine- and gross motor skills (he even cooked his own scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning — with a little help and supervision). If you think there may be a delay, it’s worth having the evaluation, and if the answer is wait-and-see and a few months down the road you still have concerns, get another one, from a different organization if possible. Or, if the answer is wait-and-see and things work themselves out in a couple months, at least you have some peace of mind in the meantime. As you’ve noticed, when you tell the parents of non-special needs kids of any generation about your concerns, they will launch into a well-meaning script of wait-and-see, that Einstein story (or a similar “my friend’s roommate’s cousin’s girlfriend had a daughter who didn’t talk until she was thirty, but when she did, she was reciting Proust” story), and their goal is to tell you everything is going to be fine the best way they know how. But you’re not alone, even if in the face-to-face world it feels that way, and if your gut is telling you to get your child evaluated, that’s absolutely what you need to do.

    • Danielle

      October 19, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      I should note that none of those moves had anything to do with our son’s diagnosis/services. They were all related to our own grad school/career paths. But we were greatly fortunate in that each move took us to a place that offered just what our son needed at the given time.

  • C

    October 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I am an SLP who has worked in early intervention … I don’t want to talk specifics because I haven’t met your child, but I will give some general thoughts.

    First, you are doing a great job, mom! I know it’s hard to know if and when and how to go about deciding whether or not you think your child could benefit from an evaluation when it comes to developmental skills. I know this from both sides of the fence, as a mom who has had children in OT and PT and as an SLP who has talked to countless concerned parents and grandparents (as well as neighbors, aunts, uncles you name it!) about a child’s speech/language development at this age. 

    Children at this age are making so many connections to their world. They are developing speech/language skills, motor skills, cognitive skills … My goodness!  That’s why it can be hard to determine if they are developing these skills in their own time or if they may be delayed to the point where interventions would be supportive. We use norms and milestones the best we can to help us indicate “red flags”in a child’s development. Some children defy these norms, so to speak and do things earlier or later. In fact, it happens a lot! Especially during these early years. Also, as a side note: often when a child learns a new skill in one area, say a motor skill, it can affect progress in another area … this may not be the case for your child specifically. 

    This is what I would suggest in a very general way without having talked to you personally. If you feel that an evaluation would bring you peace of mind, then don’t hesitate to proceed. It’s what we do as SLP’s, and we LOVE to give ideas and suggestions to help stimulate speech and language development in the child’s natural environment. We can also provide more specifics as to your child’s development with expressive and receptive language and beginning speech sounds after meeting with your child. We can also look at their social skills (intentional communication skills, play skills, etc). And that might be helpful to you as well. I’m not saying that’s what you need to do — your child may turn a corner and make headway with his speech/language skills, but I’m just letting you know what an evaluation or discussion with an SLP can provide should you choose to proceed. That’s what EI is here for, and should your child need interventions, I think it’s awesome that you want to make sure you provide those services as early as possible (again, if they are needed). 

    My other question for you would be to make sure his hearing is in the normal range, and that he isn’t struggling to hear speech and language due to a hearing loss. Some children with persistent ear infections, allergies, etc really struggle to hear what’s in their environment. So just be sure to rule that out. 

    If you would like a few general suggestions from me regarding simple things to do at this age to stimulate speech and/or language I’d be happy to share. 

    Good luck to you!  

  • Liz

    October 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Hugs to you! I know how hard it is to go through this process. Just wanted to say that we have been using birth to three services for my son’s speech since he was 23 months old. I LOVE our speech therapist and she has been amazing. Most of all, she has helped me to learn how to encourage speech in my son. I’m sad to think of the day he qualifies out of services. His progress has been tremendous and I just get so emotional getting to have actual conversations with my little man.

  • Danielle

    October 20, 2013 at 3:39 am

    I’m going through the exact same thing right now too. My son turned 2 a few weeks ago. Before turning 2 he had maybe 2 words. In the few weeks since turning 2 he has about 9. Which is great but also still leaves him very delayed. BUT, my gut tells me he’s just fine. Of course I worry a little because it’s not the “norm”, but overall I know it’ll come. I called the day after he turned 2 (the minimum age they’ll evaluate here in Canada) to get the speech therapy ball rolling and we’ll see what happens from there. I met a mom the other day who has a daughter who is just starting to say a few words at 3.5 years and her #1 piece of advice for me was not to wait, look into options as soon as you can. So you’re doing all the right things. Good luck!

  • Jen

    October 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I was in that exact same spot with my son at 2 yrs old too; it’s so hard especially with your first to know how worried or not to get about, well, everything.  We did the speech therapy evaluation too and it actually was most helpful for myself in learning a bunch of new things I could work on with him at home – in our case he was behind on a number of things he just had never seen / heard before.  I agree with the folks above who say to go for the speech evaluation – it can only help either way, right?  also want to chime in with the number of others who found that the preschool helped.  In our case it was just regular old preschool program, but I think just being around all those other kids everyday and seeing them talking really drew it out of him.  Of course every child is different and I’m not an expert just  another mom, but you’re not alone in the struggle!  Wish you all the best and hope you are someday soon asking him for just 5 minutes of quiet time 😉

  • OP

    October 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks, everyone, especially Amalah, for your kindness and concern and helpful responses. 

    The eval by a speech and language pathologist got set up really, really fast.  I thought I’d be on a month long waiting list or something, so I’d have some time to ruminate and get used to the idea and maybe a few bonus weeks to see if the talking picked up.  Not so!  We got in practically immediately.  

    His receptive language is fine.  His expressive language is delayed.  Not severely, but enough.  The SLP who did the evaluation recommended half an hour of therapy twice a week. 

    The first session, my son was quiet and all over the place and not interested in signing, “More,” thank you very much.  “Just give me all the stupid blocks, weird lady!” was sort of what he seemed to think.  But we’re just starting. 

    Weirdly, it was after the first session that I REALLY started losing it.  Beyond the losing it in the original letter. Because, these people, all their evaluations and things are predicated on me telling them things accurately and WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING?  What if his eye contact isn’t really normal?  What if he’s not using as much gibberish as he used to and I just haven’t noticed? (Yes, the fact that I’ve just started working full time may be playing into these fears.)  And I went on a Googling rampage of diagnostic doom and begging my husband, stay-at-home-Dad to please notice his eye contact over the next couple of days, okay?  Just please? 

    (His father is still not even a little worried about speech.  However, he does worry a lot about choking and various safety issues. We are 100% united in that we believe that excessive anxiety is the correct approach to parenting. We just let it take different forms.)

    Anyhow, that is the context into which my email and the response was published.  And it was very helpful, because what I really know my gut is saying is, “Make sure he gets help with the speech.”  And it is also saying, “Don’t worry about the rest of it. That’s all okay. Let go of some of that anxiety.” 

    So, that’s what I’m doing. 

  • Stephanie

    October 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Definitely follow your instinct! Speech therapy – it won’t hurt and it might help.

    Our younger daughter made us worry at a year old. She started regressing. She stopped waving and clapping, and she wasn’t pointing at all. Those were red flags enough to warrant an evaluation. She was evaluated at 15 months and hadn’t progressed much – her eye contact and engagement had returned, but she wasn’t talking or pointing at all. The speech therapist who evaluated her deemed her delayed enough to qualify, but said to wait until she was 18 months because before then, it doesn’t help much due to babies’ short attention spans.

    My health insurance provider enrolled me in a help them talk class, and it was really helpful. Use only as many words as your child uses plus one. So if your child isn’t saying any really, use one word phrases. If one word, then say two, etc. It did really help me get our daughter responding.

    By the time 18 months rolled around, she had had a mini language explosion. The ST was amazed at her progress and deemed her no longer eligible. 

    So we never needed it, but it was still helpful to learn some tricks and tools. Now she’s 19 months old and she’s learning a couple words a day. I’m still talking to her in two or three word phrases, but we’re not concerned anymore.

  • Kristen

    October 23, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Thank you so much for posting about this issue.  I’ve been feeling exactly the same way about my 19 month old son’s speech delay.  (And physio, and occupational therapy, and special visits to this doctor and that. . .)  It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • Tracey

    October 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    My daughter was speech delayed at the same age, now 5 years ago. We were told (by Help Me Grow, who did the initial assessment) that we could either get a referral for speech therapy, or wait and see what she was doing when she turned two. Our first instinct was to wait it out, but she was so difficult to manage – always a high needs baby anyway, and oh the screaming and temper tantrums, and it occured to me that she was getting frustrated at not being able to express herself. So we got the referral. Meantime I was panicking a little about possibly having a special needs child…anyway, she was evaluated, hearing checked, and accepted for speech therapy. Our experience with SLT was quite different from that described in a previous post. She had a very sweet SLT student sit down and play and talk with her, for about 10 sessions. It helped her tremendously, she was talking at the end, and much calmer in her temperament. Her speech kept improving once she was discharged too. I had people tell me that she was fine, no need for SLT, my husband’s cousin who didn’t speak until he was 4, now a pharmaceutical engineer…but to this day I’m glad we did it. The most important thing to me was to get her what she needed. Funnily enough she started stuttering a year or so later when we were overseas…but she came out of that on her own. At the end of the day, you are the one who knows your child the best, and I’m glad you have acted on your instincts. All my best!

  • Heidi

    October 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I think if you are worried, and your mom gut tells you there’s a delay/issue then you should get the eval. It may be nothing, it may be something, but if it is something, earlier = better. But! If it’s borderline? Wait a few weeks/months. Try some of the strategies you can research online. See what happens.
    I was concerned when my son wasn’t talking “on schedule”. I may have gone a little overboard with the worry. Ahem. But I had a hard time scheduling an appointment and stuck with some engagement techniques I read about online and in one book. I figured I’d make an appointment if things hadn’t improved at 2. And you know what? He was fine. He started talking well around 23 months, moved to complete sentences seemingly days after he only had a couple words and a couple signs. We are currently applying for preschools…and every application asks if we’ve had our child evaluated for any early intervention or ever sent him to any speech therapy or etc etc etc etc. I don’t know that having him evaluated would have made it harder to get him into school, but I do know I would have had to explain why I had him evaluated, and presumably would have had to share the results with the school. If there were something going on, this might be appropriate. But since it turns out there isn’t? Getting him into school is hard enough without giving them cause to think I’m hiding something (we aren’t applying to the million dollar per year schools, but even the co-op ones ask for this info, and I can see why, I guess).
    Anyway: trust your instincts.

  • Alison

    October 28, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I agree with what most people have said so far…trust your gut. I have a set of twins who started speech assistance at age 2. They are 5 now and one has “caught up” and graduated from the program while the other still receives speech assistance for articulation. Having gone through this with the twins, I was super sensitive about my 3rd child when he too did not have words. I called and spoke to a speech pathologist multiple times. Each time she asked me multiple questions about what he was saying and gave me things to watch for and tips on how to coax him to talk and work on his sounds. Even though he did not need an offical evaluation, these phone conversations with the speech pathologist helped ease my mind and I truly believe her suggestions of games and encouragement helped get him back on track. Trust your gut and if you’re worried, call and talk to an expert!

  • speech and occupational therapy | yuenme

    March 15, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    […] for many years, but now is attending public school and is managing really well. She wrote on article on the topic of speech delays which was very informative and helpful. It was very uplifting to read […]

  • Jessica

    November 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I cried when I read this post and all of the comments. My 18 month old son doesn’t have any words, and I suspect he has some hearing issues cause by chronic ear infections. Right now, I’m in the grief/mourning process, and it helped to have someone validate that process.

  • Kathryn

    February 1, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I just wanted to thank everyone for their posts! They are so encouraging. My 2nd child (just turned 3) is speech delayed and the anxiety of all this has been very stressful for me! I, too, started googling like a mad woman much against the advice of my husband and got even more worked up!. I’m glad I found this website to see that it will be okay.  He’s in speech therapy and moving forward and I’m starting to realize that it will be okay! Thanks again everyone, very encouraging to a very worried mom!