Toddler Talking and Hope on the Horizon

It Takes Two to Talk

So, yeah.  Earlier this week, I worried about Norton’s lack of toddler talking.  I’d gotten some helpful things from It Takes Two to Talk, but it turns out that the book was more helpful than I’d thought.  While I did learn that part of the “problem” is with Norton’s communication style (he is very happy to play by himself and only starts an interaction when he wants something) and how I respond to it, and I got some ideas on how to work past it, I was still getting nervous about the lack of toddler talking.  I’d received more than one message through various mediums that maybe our toddler communication issues were a sign of something more serious… and while I didn’t think so, I did find the possibility to be worrisome.

But yesterday we had an appointment with the speech and language center at the Northern Health Unit.  It’s been our second appointment, and I do love K, our speech and language pathologist.

While we were there, K played with him (or tried to) and observed him.  She did come to a few conclusions that were actually kind of in line with my own… and it was helpful with giving me some direction to getting Norton’s toddler talking up to speed.

1.) Norton is far too engaged to be anywhere on the autistic spectrum.  He frequently ran to his dad for reassurance and was still engaged and paying attention when we talked to him, even if he wasn’t terribly interested in playing with anyone.

2.) Norton is most likely a perfectionist.  When he hit certain milestones late (like walking), he quickly went from behind the curve to ahead.  He doesn’t attempt to do things until he’s certain that he can do them right.  That includes fine motor skills things like carefully stacking the blocks to line up just so, and it includes things like actually talking.

3.) There were times that I was just certain that I’d heard Norton use words, particularly since they were in context.  K figured that Norton probably did talk, but didn’t say the words “good enough” so he decided not to do it again until he could “do it right.”

She did agree that, yes, Norton is behind in the toddler communication department, he does not have a significantly huge toddler language delay and there is no underlying learning disability or toddler behavior problem.  And she loved that I was reading It Takes Two to Talk because it’s part of their own program, so it gave me the tools to quickly get down to what we’re seeing and where Norton is (communicator phase), his toddler communication style (Own Agenda), and how I interact (the Watcher).

She suggested that part of the “problem” is that I’m a good mom.  (And considering how often I wonder if I’m a good mom or if I’m just a massive parenting fail, it’s nice to hear.)  I’m good at figuring out what he wants rather quickly, so he doesn’t have to work so hard to tell me.  The words aren’t always necessary, and I seem to experience more frustration over not always getting it right away than Norton does.

When it comes to how to “fix” it and get my toddler talking, we discussed strategies.

1.) I have some homework.  There are a few words that I’m to focus on using with Norton, even in a one word context so that he will hopefully mimic the sound and pick up the word (like he did with “dog”): more, up, done, please, and bubbles.

2.) Just start playing with his toys and he’ll start playing parallel with me at some point.  Focus on the words that we want to introduce.

Norton experimenting with "up" as he put his toy laptop "up" on his high chair

3.) I might be good at figuring out what Norton wants from his body language and a few cues, but other children are not.  Getting Norton around other children has been suggested.  So she’s put Norton on the wait list for two toddler playgroups by the speech and language center.  Both of the toddler playgroups are one week sessions, fourteen weeks long.  The toddler playgroups are designed for children with just a toddler language delay, but no underlying toddler behavior or developmental issues.  One is with a lot of parent involvement, the other is not.  The third suggestion was to start taking Norton to Strong Start, which is a provincial kindergarten readiness program available at most of the public elementary schools.

I am committed to helping with this toddler language delay, and I know that it won’t happen without me putting in the effort.  So, we’re going to start doing Strong Start next week.  A friend of mine goes with her two kids, and I’m going to go one day with her to make it a little easier for me (slightly introverted) to get out of my comfort zone and go.

And, hey, maybe we’ll find some friends for Norton at the toddler playgroups.  That would be good, too.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Glad to hear you are going to go to Strong Start. It’s a great program. Good luck and have fun!

  2. Teresa Cavanaugh says:

    Bear had some language issues. If he couldn’t pronounce a word correctly he invented one to replace. One of the things I did with him was a lot of hand/singing games. Things like Little Bunny FooFoo, Two Little Dickie Birds, Pattycake etc. The movements help keep them engaged and they will often try to mimic some of the song/melody. By the time Bear started kindergarten his language skills were advanced.

    • Here’s hoping we can do something similar. I’m guessing that Norton is already not “tone deaf” though… he screams at me when I sing. 😉

  3. It’s great that you’re getting help from someone who obviously “gets” just what the situation is and how to handle it. There’s nothing worse than dealing with an “expert” that just doesn’t get it, or for whom you feel no sense of compatibility with. Also, who knew toddlers could be perfectionists? Further proof I was born this way. I’m totally using that for ammo against the husband. 😉

    • The husband has always been a perfectionist, even when he was a little kid. Some people are just like that. I figure Norton comes by it honestly.

  4. I think the fact that you worried and hit the books and hit the language center prove that you are a great mom. It must just be amazing to get all that insight into Norton, I feel like as a parent everything is such a guessing game and so a little reassurance from a pro would be such a comfort. My Bean has learned everything from watching other kids at play groups, which is the only reason I continue to torture myself with playgroups and toddler times on a regular basis 😉

  5. I’m not surprised that some people have you worried. However, as a linguist, my first reaction is that there is significant variation in terms of child language acquistion; however, all children without extreme impairments acquire their first language. Therefore, as long as he is developing fine on other areas, you most likely have nothing to worry about. On a personal note, my little brother did not start talking until he was 3. His “problem” was similar to Norton’s. My brother had two older siblings who were very attentive to him, so he had no reason to talk. At 19, He now won’t shut up! 🙂

  6. You named him Norton?

  7. It sounds like things are going in a great direction for you and your son. It is extremely scary when things are going on that you can’t comprehend completely, especially when it comes to your children, but I am so happy that you are finding some type of clarity.

    Those are some great techniques and tools that have been given to you to try. Having a plan always gives some peace to any situation that you are going through. What a sweet boy and I can’t wait to hear about his progression!

    • Thanks. We’re already seeing a little progress, so hopefully things will continue to get better. After all, talking is the first step to world domination.

  8. My Lucy was a late talker. We spent months visiting speech therapists, but it was to no avail. She hardly said two words until she turned 3. After that, we couldn’t get her to shut up. 🙂 I honestly wouldn’t worry yet. Norton is still so young. Give him a chance. He’ll talk when he’s ready.

    • Thanks, Angie. 🙂 I figure w/ your kids, you’re pretty much the parenting expert. At least, you’re a valued source of advice!


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  2. […] been trying a lot of things that the speech pathologist suggested when we went to intervention last week.  I know that Norton’s toddler talking is not quite up to speed and that […]

  3. […] received a list of “homework words” when we went to the speech and language pathologist, and we’ve been trying to integrate them […]

  4. […] we were at the speech pathologist a few weeks ago, she referred us to get Norton’s hearing checked out.  She didn’t […]

  5. […] building those blocks up (which was one of our “homework words” from the speech pathologist) was much more fun.  Norton and I sat down on the floor and we built a […]

  6. […] received a list of “homework words” when we went to the speech and language pathologist, and we’ve been trying to integrate them […]

  7. […] been trying a lot of things that the speech pathologist suggested when we went to intervention last week.  I know that Norton’s toddler talking is not quite up to speed and that […]

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