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Why Isn’t My 20 Month Old Talking Yet?

Kids may develop at their own pace, but that doesn’t mean parents don’t worry about them falling behind in the language department. For instance, a toddler who is 20 months old who isn’t saying more than a few words could be experiencing a hearing defect.

If this isn’t the issue, and your little one seems to understand and follow directions well despite his lack of speech, then it could simply be that the child is in his timeline.

Nevertheless, your worry is perfectly justified.

Still, it’s also important to understand that these things happen.

Close to 20 percent of young children learn to speak and develop a more extensive vocabulary later than their peers.

What should make you happy, though, is that, in most cases, these delays are temporary.

mom with toddler on lap trying to communicate

How Language Develops in Children

According to Speech and Sound Clinic, the period between one and two years old is rapid development in a child’s ability to communicate.

This is when a toddler’s vocabulary goes beyond the simple “mama” and “dada” words to two-word phrases or sentences, like “more please” or “want milk.”

The 20-month-old mark is also identified with these other milestones:

Naming everyday objects and body parts

Asking two-word questions

Learning more than two words per week

Putting at least two words together

mother kneeling with child on table who is not talking yet

The Reasons Behind Why Your Child Isn’t Talking Yet

While it’s entirely possible that your children could be taking their time to acquire that vast vocabulary if it doesn’t look like they’re on such a path, that could be for the following reasons:

1. Delay in Language Development

Kids with parents who abide by attachment parenting or those with older siblings tend to speak at a later age.

Older siblings just take it upon themselves to talk for their younger brothers and sisters, and, for a time, this becomes the norm in the household.

In the same way, a parent who is so in tune with their child’s needs can often meet those needs before the child can verbalize them.

While not necessarily a bad thing, it can affect how speech develops in children.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to tell if your little one is lagging in the speech department or if he’s a child of few words because of his family’s behavior towards him.

2. Impairment in Hearing

It’s not easy to determine if your child hears well enough at his age.

The fact is that parents remain mostly unaware of their little ones’ hearing impairment until they notice their delayed speech.

If your toddler is vulnerable to ear infections, or if your family has a history of hearing issues, you’ll want to have your child’s hearing evaluated to rule out these problems, which could affect his speech development.

3. Issues With the Mouth or Tongue

If your child has perfect hearing and seems to be able to follow instructions well, perhaps his speaking troubles may stem from oral problems or, more specifically, issues with the mouth or tongue.

Oral impairment ranges from problems surrounding the roof of the mouth (palate) or the tongue, such as a cleft palate or a tongue tie.

Speech delays in children could also be rooted in problems in the oral motor, which is the section of the brain responsible for speech.

The child will have difficulty coordinating his jaw, tongue, and lips to produce talking sounds in such cases.

Oral motor impairments could also lead to feeding problems.

If any of these issues are suspected, your pediatrician can help you address them by referring you to a speech-language pathologist.

dad hiking with toddler not talking in his arms

How to Improve Speech Development in Toddlers

If the problem that’s bothering you most is how your child expresses things through language, here are some things you can do to address that area in speech development:

Read to your child daily

Help your child learn about animal names by making animal sounds

Introduce your child to singing

You also want to ask questions that require more than one-word answers like “yes” or “no.”

Offering options to your toddler has been known to improve language development and boost character.

Through these practices, you may even start to notice a significant reduction in temper tantrums and other behaviors that are linked to the word “no.”

Final Thoughts

In most cases, if your 20-month-old kid isn’t talking yet, it’s probably because he belongs to the one-in-every-five-children statistic that speaks and develops a broader vocabulary at a later age.

However, there’s also a chance that his speech delays could stem from hearing issues, language development problems, or oral motor impairments.

If you suspect any of these problems to be the cause of your child’s lack of speech, make sure to talk to a speech-language pathologist who can evaluate the situation correctly and accurately.

In that way, you can find the best possible solution to address your child’s deficiency in spoken language.

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