A silent child.


Tigerboy is 2 next month. According to developmental guidelines on the NHS site:

Puts at least two words together

Your child will know a range of single words and talk in short sentences.

By the age of two a child will be able to say a range of single words and many children will be talking in short sentences. If your child is trying to say a word but gets it wrong, say the word properly. For example, if your baby points to a cat and says β€˜Ca!’ say β€˜Yes, it’s a cat’. Don’t criticise or tell them off for getting the word wrong. Your child may also be able to point to parts of their body.


He can say Mam, meow, no (nooooo, NOOOOOO) rah (roar), and yesterday for the first time he said Dada out loud in Tim’s hearing. He has signs for biscuit, drink, food, please, milk and toast and nods or says mm MMM for yes.

I suppose that’s a range of single words.

It’s certainly not short sentences though.

This is not my first silent child. Small didn’t speak until he was nearly 3. We had speech therapy that I don’t think made any difference at all, but at least we’d ticked all the boxes.

Tigerboy is different though. He makes a range of noises quietly often on a morning when it’s just me and him together waking up slowly. We get dadadada and ttttt, mmmm, ssss. I have the impression that he’s practising sounds, and that he doesn’t want to use any of them in public until he has them absolutely right. He said Dada to Tim when I said how much Daddy would like it, so I’m sure that there’s a social pressure he’s feeling.

I don’t really know why though. We do a lot of talking, laughing, playing. We read books, play with sounds, tickle, sing. He hasn’t picked up any more signs – I think he thinks he has enough. And he’s rarely frustrated by my lack of understanding, although four children down the line, I’m pretty practised at working out what a small child might want. Is that part of the problem? Do we understand him too easily?

Is it a problem? That’s the other thing. I know he understands me. He’s massively interactive. We can play games – heads shoulders knees and toes, he knows all sorts of parts of his body, can identify different colours, brings me books and looks through them himself, identifies things in pictures, sits for ages doing jigsaws and puzzles. It’s very like Small in that way – he was either spot on or ahead (according to the health visitor) developmentally in every area except speech. So do I go for another speech therapy referral – just in case?

I really don’t know. I think I might see if I can find out when the health visitor session at the local children’s centre is, and go up and have a chat. And if anyone has any hints or tips I’d love to hear them.

Like a diamond!

Like a diamond!

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  1. My youngest practiced sounds just as you say, always when she thought no one was listening – ie first thing in the morning when she thought I was asleep. She was a very late talker but went from having 20 or so words to a very extensive vocabulary in a very short space of time (under 6 months iirc). she had her own words for certain things, all of which have now been replaced by the proper version – last to go was tango for taekwondo!

  2. Oh also meant to say – she very definitely didn’t want to say a word unless she got it right, and we also understood her very well – I think being the youngest with a range of siblings that you are with most of the time means there is a very high likelihood that at least one person will understand what you mean. She used to get very frustrated if we couldnt understand her, but it was hilarious when we finally twigged – she would roll her eyes and shake her head at us for being so stupid!

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      At the moment when we finally get it right we’re rewarded with a happy dance and lots of nodding πŸ™‚

  3. http://Sarah says

    This sounds just like my little boy. We were referred for speech therapy after his 27month check as is been concerned for a while about his lack of speech. At his first appointment at 28 months he had 5 words. However like you say he managed to communicate well through signs or showing us. He was (and still is) brilliant at interacting with other children. He role plays etc. it was just his speech. 3 weeks ago we started the group sessions which in my opinion were a bit if a waste of time. They could of given us a leaflet and saved a lot of resources. One thing on the sheet though that we’ve picked up is talking in short burst sentences. So instead of ‘can you put your shoes on please’ they said to say ‘shoes on’.Means the same and more chance of him copying. Also I asked about the communicating to well (I understand pretty much everything he says/wants) they said not to worry about that. It’s good that youve got a way if communicating because they will be less frustrated and so more willing to learn.
    He’s now 32 months and in the last week we’ve had an explosion of words. He’s copying and even putting two words together. It is difficult to know what to do for the best. I’m glad we has speech therapy now though as they said they will stay involved now until they are happy he talks properly and pronounces things correctly. Xx

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      I’ll try to add in some short sentences – I probably am guilty of rabbiting on a bit too much at times! Thanks.

  4. I think it’s a boy “thing” as well. J will say the odd word, but mostly it’s endless jabbering and “car!” for everything. There’s a little girl of 18 months at J’s child minders who says so much. She asked “what name?” for J and when I replied, she nodded and said “James”. Memorised. Done. I think as long as they’re trying then it doesn’t matter what any health visitor says. All children are different, no? πŸ™‚ x

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      Yes, I seem to have voluble girls and silent boys! he doesn’t jabber though, there’s no babbling like I’ve heard other children do. (The girls didn’t do it, they just spoke!) They are indeed all different, that’s very true.

  5. Erin was late to talk (aswell as walk) she did the the speech therapy thing. It didn’t make a difference in my opinion. The sessions are half an hour every month or so so hardly going to be life changing. However now at 4 here speech is excellent, she has a wide range of words, is very clear and very confident. For us I just think whilst she wasn’t walking and why she was in a spica she had little experiences to talk about therefore didn’t have much to say. When she started exploring her world more she had more to say!

  6. http://Katherine says

    There’s always a balance between educating them for their independent lives and doing everything in their own time… He may need you to let him know explicitly/give him permission/educate his emotional intelligence that “it’s time for you to talk out loud more now.” He can’t expect, unconsciously, that everyone is going to exert themselves to mind-read him and pick up on his cues: for the most part, that won’t be their responsibility, either.

    He’s your kid so he’ll be a bright boy; he may balk at making the effort if he feels he’s been fine thank you very much and what’s up with YOU? But as he responded well to hearing that Daddy would like it if he said “Dada” – that’s not social pressure, that’s developing emotional intelligence – he’ll probably respond pretty well to a combination of techniques that make it clear to that good mind of his that you need (for many reasons) him to *talk to you*. You might engage the other kids in games letting him get a word in edgewise, too, like that one in “I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue” where totally unrelated words are uttered in sequence. Teach him words for what he might want to say: “Bath! Hurray!” Watch his eyes and as they light on something and he looks at The Interesting Thing, give him the word and wait for him to try to say it aloud.

    I’m guessing you’ve had his hearing tested, also.


    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      yes, hearing tested lots – I’m half deaf so all the kids have been through the early testing. He’s the only one that has been discharged early!

      The emotional intelligence thing is a perspective I hadn’t thought of. I do try to get him to say things when it’s choosing and that sort of thing, but he responds by throwing his head back and shouting Noooooo. It feels like a bit of a battle – and I don’t want to make that worse.

      I’ll see what games we’ve got kicking about that might work, maybe some old mcdonald type things might help.

  7. http://aendr says

    Based on that description, he’s just in the group of children that is not the “many”, plus there’s the family history. He clearly is making some words. I was translated for by my big sister, didn’t talk till gone 3 and was found to have intermittent hearing problems, though apparently my first sentence included adverbs, adjectives and two sub clauses. It is worth checking if there’s a problem in him understanding you when he can’t see you or when there’s a lot of background noise. Can you get some sound activated toys – perhaps Small and an electronics kit or some programming software and a microphone could make something which does something interesting when Tigerboy talks to it. (That sounds like quite a good self educating project for Small too, complete with the experience of developing for a specific customer/tester.) Rewards for communicating – so lots of praise and smiles for those rare or new words – may help; you know that already but can the older children also support that goal?

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      We’ve had his hearing testing thoroughly – there’s a family history of deafness.

      I think the sound activated thing is quite a good idea, thanks, we have an app on one of the tablets that he loves to play with. Will explore further.

  8. My eldest didn’t speak until he was 2. As you say, they make themselves understood because you are there, ready to understand. His speech is great now, I think he was just waiting until he was ready. Speak to the HV if it will put your mind at rest. At least then you know you have taken action, just in case he needs help. Take care x

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      I’ve tracked down a drop in session with the HV tomorrow in the library. Think I’ll take him for a not chat with them πŸ˜‰

  9. I can sympathise with your feeling worried about it. However, here’s a true story. My OH (who nowadays is impossible to shut up) rarely spoke before he was 4 – to the extent that his family thought he was slow. One day, shortly after his 4th birthday, his father asked him slowly (so he could understand the request) “Please go and find your brother, and tell him the bicycles are on television.” OH looks at him witheringly, goes to the door of the room, sticks his head out and leans into the hall, before yelling at the top of his voice: “Fred! Tour de France!”

    There is also that wonderful story (but not sure if this one is true) about Einstein, who also didn’t really speak before he was 4, at which point he sat at the lunch table and said “This soup is cold.” His family were amazed, and asked why he hadn’t really spoken before then. Einstein’s answer? “Because everything was in order until now…”

    This is not to say you shouldn’t pay attention. Only that the most intelligent I know (he married me, didn’t he?) and one of the world’s genius’s (that would be Einstein, not the OH), didn’t really talk until the age of 4.


    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      Yes – I know of lots of anecdotes of that kind. And have experience of it with Small. The drawback is that you can’t wind back a year and give early intervention later if it turns out it would be useful.

  10. Nano was still quiet at this stage and I felt the same about him practising sounds. I remember it as he came up to his second birthday, as we had video of his elder brother at the same age speaking and I know he’d chosen and asked for what cake he wanted. There was no way Nano could’ve done that. Like Tigerboy, he could communicate what he needed and didn’t get frustrated. I never considered getting a health visitor involved. He’ll be 3 at the beginning of June and he jabbers away now. He’s much clearer, than his brother was too. Just generally quieter, I think.

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much. I know that Small cracked it. But it’s niggling with me, I feel like maybe I’m missing something. I think I’ll just do the drop in, and daresay everything will be fine.

  11. I don’t have any advice but number two didn’t speak at all until he was three. It’s always a worry when you look at what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing but as you know they are all different and often do what they want to do when they want to! Maybe as you said he is happy to go along like this, after all you know what he wants and he’ll just start talking at his own pace. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. x

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      Thanks Nova. I wish I could put my finger on why this is niggling me so much. There’s always something isn’t there?

  12. http://TBird says

    I could say don’t worry, he’s making himself understood and all that (and he and Pol had a lovely “conversation” at High Summer aparently, or at least, he knew all the right expressions, gestures and so on to get the information he wanted!)

    But… I can understand the worry. Pol didn’t do all those gorgeous baby babble noises either. She did, with prompting, copy phonemes but although she could say all the sounds in the word cat she couldn’t say cat etc.

    Baby Talk by Dr Sally someone-or-other was suggested to me as a good book to “get her talking”. I’m not sure it did, but it got her understanding more of what I said so she had half a hope of making sense of the world.

    Hope HV can give some reassurance or at least help you tick the boxes that need ticking xxx

  13. http://SallyM says

    Do you think maybe it is bothering you more because you now know about ASD and the possible implication of late speech and benefit of early intervention whereas maybe with Small you weren’t quite so aware? Personally I’d do the drop in just so you can get his name on a waiting list if needed, you can always take him off again if you feel he doesn’t need it by the time he gets to the top!

    • http://Jax%20Blunt says

      I think that might be it Sally. Although I’ve no idea what early intervention might look like, we’ve not encountered that before.

  14. No useful advice as both of mine won’t bloody shut up πŸ˜‰ but I will say that he seemed to have no problems communicating his wants & needs last time I saw him, words or not. He wasn’t shy about doing so either! He’s obviously making it work for him at this stage. πŸ™‚

  15. He sounds pretty perfect to me. And you sound like a gorgeous mum. He’ll find his own speed I’m sure of it. X

  16. http://aendr says

    If there’s something niggling, then I would be inclined to trust the mother’s instinct and get it checked out.

  17. How’d it go?

  18. Oh dear :-/

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