2 years old and not talking

What's Covered

Your child has just turned 2 years old and is enjoying the day at the park with his/her friends. The other children are talking rapidly to each other while your child is silent. Your child is struggling to communicate with the other children. How many times has this happened to your child? Have people commented on it? Many children have speech delays, it is not uncommon, and yet it is a concern. Would you like to know how to help your child? Let’s take a look at the language development stages, tips on how to help your child, and products to use.

Language Development stages

According to Hatauruk, there are 6 language development stages in children

1.      Pre-talking stage (0-6 months)

This stage is where the child makes vowel sounds like a, o, e, u, and I. An Infant this age should be making these vowel sounds by 6 months.

2.      Babbling stage (6-8 months)

This stage is where the child starts saying consonant sounds such as ma-ma, ba-ba, da-da, na-na. They say the sounds but don’t understand the meaning of what they are saying.

3.      Holophrastic stage (9-18 months)

At 9-18 months, your child should be able to say single words to communicate. If they want something they would be able to show you by saying one word. As they grow so does their vocabulary.

4.      Two-word stage (18-24 months )

The two-word stage is where your child should be able to communicate with two words. For example. Billy wants to eat, he would say “me eat” or “me food” to describe what he wants. At this stage your child should be talking, even if not in complete sentences but they should be able to communicate with you.

5.      Telegraphic stage (24-30 months)

At this stage, your child can communicate in sentence-like sentences without the non-content words such as the, it, and, then, with, to, and if. A child can communicate well but still doesn’t communicate in full sentences.

6.      Later multiword stage (30+ months)

At this stage, your child should be communicating and understanding in full sentences now. [1]

Why is your child not talking yet?

Your child should be in the two-word stage but if they haven’t started talking by now you need to determine several things before getting the right assistance for them. Do they make sounds? Can they hear you? Can they understand you? Do they only talk to you and are quiet with others? These questions will help determine why your child isn’t talking yet.

Can your child hear you?

If you think your child cannot hear you, take your child to a pediatric audiologist to ensure your child can hear and make sounds. If they cannot hear you at all then they are considered hearing impaired and will require cochlear implants and if they are hard of hearing they will require hearing aids[2]. This shows that your child may need assistance through hearing devices. However, if your child as an infant had access to newborn hearing screening, this would reduce the chance that your child has reached 2 years old and had hearing problems[3]. If you have access to the newborn hearing screening test please do so.

Can they make sounds?

If a child can hear you but does not make sounds they are known as mute. This means that your child can hear but is unable to talk. According to the U.S CDC, this may occur due to a language disorder which may be due to an injury, voice disorder, disease, or an inability to control muscles [4]. There is not a lot of research focusing on total mutism. Another reason for total mutism is if a child has suffered a psychological or physical trauma that resulted in the child not talking anymore[5].

Do they only talk to you?

Selective mutism is a very rare condition where a child may be too shy to speak in certain situations or with certain people due to having social anxiety and separation anxiety [6]. This means a child who is selectively mute is one who struggles to talk in a social environment whether due to being around new people or when their parents are not there. A form of selective mutism is mostly where a child doesn’t talk to strangers or doesn’t talk in a public setting such as schools[7]

Can your child understand you?

 If a child can understand, they are known as late talkers who comprehend what you are saying but they cannot produce speech[8]. This means your child understands you but is unable to respond.  Late talkers are often referred to as children who have an expressive language development delay. The reason for not talking yet is that they have a slight delay in producing words and expressing themselves through language.

What if your child cannot hear you and doesn’t respond?

 If your child can’t understand or respond, then is more of a concern so make sure you know whether they are on the autism spectrum or not. There are several categories in the autism spectrum which are Rett’s disorder, Childhood disintegrative disorder, Autism, Asperger’s disorder, and atypical autism[9]. Children who are autistic usually have problems with communicating. Autistic children have joint attention which means that they have issues when it comes to language, communication, and social interactions[10]

Recommendations on helping your 2-year-old who is not talking

After classifying your child, here are some tips and suggestions to help each type of child.

Hearing Impaired

If your child is hearing impaired, you will need to get cochlear implants and focus a lot on speech therapy techniques. You will need to focus on auditory verbal therapy where the speech therapist will work on helping the child learn how to speak in a learning/school setting with a lot of repetition to assist your child to learn new words [11]. This means that the best speech therapy method is one where your child learns how to speak through activities and games in which he/she has to speak. If your child is hard of hearing you will need to get hearing aids to help your child hear better.

Books for parents

Here is a list of books for parents on understanding and assisting your hearing-impaired child.

Sale
Speech and the Hearing-Impaired Child: Theory and Practice
This is the perfect book to understand your hearing-impaired child and assist with how to communicate with them
Sale
Your Child's Hearing Loss: What Parents Need to Know
This book is perfect for parents who have a child with a hearing loss, not fully hearing impaired, it focuses on the use of hearing aids
Children with Hearing Loss: Developing Listening and Talking, Birth to Six
The perfect book and guide for parents dealing with a child with hearing loss

Toys

Here are some toys to help your child learn sign language in a fun and interactive method.

Sign language flashcards for children
Perfect tool to help young children learn sing language
My Signing Time
This is the perfect app for learning sign language through videos

DVD

Here is a DVD that shows children how to sign.

Baby Signing Time
This is the perfect DVD to learn sign language for babies
Sharing the Joy of Storytelling with Your Deaf Toddler
The perfect DVD on how to tell your toddlers a story using sign language

Selectively Mute

If your child is selectively mute, the first stage to take your child to a speech therapist who will carry out a full assessment in an interview format with your child, family, school, and classmates to determine who they can talk to, where they can talk, why they don’t feel like talking [12]. By performing a full assessment on the child, your speech therapist should be able to determine which activities and strategies to do with your child. The speech therapist can use an exposure-based practice which includes the use of relaxation techniques and developing a hierarchy to determine which situations are the least and the most difficult for your child[13]. If you need more information there are some books for you and your child to read to help your child overcome their selective mutism. 

Books for children

Here are some books to read to your child about selective mutism

My Friend Daniel Doesn't Talk
The perfect book to help your toddler understand that other children are also silent and how to treat each other
Mute No More: How I Overcame My Speech Impediment and Became a Beauty Queen
This is a true story of a girl who lived in a mute world who managed to change her destiny and is no longer mute, it is perfect for parents and children alike to see what are the possibilities out there

Books for adults

Here is a book on understanding your selectively mute child

Sale
The Selective Mutism Resource Manual: 2nd Edition
The perfect book filled with resources to understand and assist your toddler with selective mutism

Autism spectrum

If your child is on the autism spectrum there are many approaches that you can apply. Based on the child’s autism category, your child’s teacher and psychologist will be able to provide the right approach for them. The types of approaches are behavioral, developmental, and social pragmatic. An autistic child may have more issues other than language delays which means you will need more help and assistance than the hearing impaired, the mute, and the late talkers.

Books for adults

Here is a list of amazing books to help your autistic child communicate, learn, develop and flourish. 

Sale
Positive Parenting for Autism: Powerful Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Challenges and Thrive
The perfect book to help parents of an autistic child guide their child with different techniques and strategies

Late talker

       Your child is not the first late talker around and there are many ways to assist your child. It is believed that late talkers are usually diagnosed when they reach pre-school and assisting a late talker to speak is possible even if the speed of progress may be slow[14]. Here is a list of products to help your late talker’s speech delay.

Books for children

Here are some books to read to your child to help improve their vocabulary.

Sale
Read Hear & Play: 600 First Words
The perfect book set and application to help your child improve their vocabulary

Books for parents

Here are some books for parents to understand and assist their children.

DVD

Here is a DVD, to assist your child through games and exercises.

Sale
Baby Babble DVD
This DVD provides a fun, interactive way for children to improve their language and speech through exercises, games, and the use of sign language.

Behavioral issues in a 2-year-old who is not talking

Sometimes when a 2-year-old is not yet talking it can cause behavioral issues. A child who cannot communicate or express himself/herself with words can cause the child to be angry and use an action to get their message across. Some children can be violent, either by hitting, biting, scratching, pinching, or screaming. Helping your child communicate is important for their behavior and safety. To help your child communicate, it is believed that parent involvement in speech therapy strategies will help in a big way[15].  Therefore, as a parent, you have to be patient, understanding and ensure you advocate for your child when he/she cannot. As a parent, you understand your child better than anyone else so you have to be on your child’s side and give them support as much as possible.

Speech therapy

Importance of speech therapy

Speech therapy is important to a 2-year-old who is not talking. Speech therapy is a tool that can help your child immensely to learn how to talk.  Speech therapy’s purpose is to cause change whether to notice a change in a certain behavior or in acquiring more skills[16]. This means that speech therapy can help in language, speech, communication and it can help children with behavioral issues. This means that speech therapy also works with improving certain behaviors in children. The best time to start and reap the benefits of speech therapy is when the child is still young[17]. This means when you notice your child has a speech problem try and diagnose it early so you can help your child before any behavioral problems occur. It is believed a private setting in speech therapy is more effective than a school setting as it ensures parents are more involved as they communicate more with each other[18].  It is believed the use of technology such as computers and tablets may make the session more fun for the child and increase your child’s attention span[19].

How to continue the speech therapy at home

If you have put your child in speech therapy ensure you are following up with your child and you are involved as much as possible[20]. You need to be a part of the process and help participate in the activities whether they are fun and interactive or repetitive. Some speech therapists ask the parent to be there during the session to see what has been done and to ensure the skills learned are applied at home.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many reasons why your 2 years old may not be talking yet. Hope this shows you that you are not alone and that many children suffer from a speech impediment. Also, hope this shows you the many ways that you can help your child whether it is to participate in speech therapy strategies, to learn sign language, to give your child a chance, the products that can help you, and lastly, the importance of your involvement in dealing with their speech impediment.


[1]Hutauruk, Bertaria Sohnata. “Children First Language Acquisition At Age 1-3 Years Old In Balata.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (2015): 51-57.

[2] Moeller, Mary Pat and J. Bruce Tomblin. “An introduction to the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss Study.” Ear Hear. (2015).

[3] Moeller, Mary Pat and J. Bruce Tomblin. “An introduction to the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss Study.” Ear Hear. (2015).

[4] CDC. “Language Disorders.” n.d. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . 1 February 2021.

[5] Kolvin, I. and Fundudis, T. “elective mute children: psychological development and background factors.” Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry Allied Disciplines (1981): 219-232.

[6] Cleave, Hayley. “Too anxious to speak? The implications of current research into Selective Mutism for educational psychology practice.” Educational Psychology in Practive (2009): 233-246.

[7]  Kearney, Christopher. Helping Children with Selective Mutism and Their Parents : A Guide for School-Based Professionals. 2010.

[8] Bates, Elizabeth, Philip S. Dale and Donna Thal. “Individual Differences and their Implications for Theories of Language Development.” Fletcher, Paul and Brian MacWhinney. The Handbook of the Child Language. 2017.

[9] Schwartz, Richard G. Handbook of Child Language Disorders. New York: Psychology Press, 2009.

[10] Schwartz, Richard G. Handbook of Child Language Disorders. New York: Psychology Press, 2009.

[11] Ronkainen, Riitta, et al. “Promoting lexical learning in the speech and language therapyof children with cochlear implants.” Clinical Linguitics & Phonetics (2017): 266–282.

[12] Kearney, Christopher. Helping Children with Selective Mutism and Their Parents : A Guide for School-Based Professionals. 2010.

[13] Kearney, Christopher. Helping Children with Selective Mutism and Their Parents : A Guide for School-Based Professionals. 2010.

[14] Laurence B. Leonard. Children with Specific Language Impairment. Vol. Second edition, A Bradford Book, 2014.

[15] Romski, MaryAnn, et al. “Parent Perceptions of the Language Development of Toddlers With Developmental Delays Before and After Participation in Parent-Coached Language Interventions.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2011): 111-118.

[16] Farquharson, Kelly, Sherine R. Tambyraja and Laura M. Justice. “Contributions to Gain in Speech Sound Production Accuracy for Children With Speech Sound Disorders: Exploring Child and Therapy Factors.” Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools (2020): 457-468.

[17] Tambyraja, Sherine R. “Facilitating Parental Involvement in Speech Therapy for Children With Speech Sound Disorders: A Survey of Speech-Language Pathologists Practices, Perspectives, and Strategies.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2020): 1987-1996.

[18] Tambyraja, Sherine R. “Facilitating Parental Involvement in Speech Therapy for Children With Speech Sound Disorders: A Survey of Speech-Language Pathologists Practices, Perspectives, and Strategies.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2020): 1987-1996.

[19] Zajc, Matej, et al. “Tablet game-supported speech therapy embedded in children’s popular practices.” Behaviour & Information Technology (2018): 693-702.

[20] Tambyraja, Sherine R. “Facilitating Parental Involvement in Speech Therapy for Children With Speech Sound Disorders: A Survey of Speech-Language Pathologists Practices, Perspectives, and Strategies.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2020): 1987-1996.

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Author

Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.
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