Working Past a Toddler Language Delay

This is the face of a toddler language delayWhen it was first suggested that Norton may be experiencing a toddler language delay, I was horrified.  I had all sorts of ideas in my head, and a lot of them were wrong ones.  Children in my family don’t do things late.  They usually do things pretty early.  My sisters and I, my nieces, my nephews, and Andy were all ahead of the curve.  Delays were things that happened in other families.

I thought that a toddler language delay was a symptom of other developmental delays.  Or it was a sign that they may have something to cause it like hearing issues, or they wouldn’t be so bright.  It was always, in my mind, a sign that something was wrong.  Of course, it turns out that the only that that was wrong was my own suppositions.  One of the big parts of working past a toddler language delay was getting past my own worries.

Sometimes, there’s no medical reason for a toddler language delay.  In those cases, it’s just considered late talking.  In Norton’s case, that’s all it was.  Then I learned to stop blaming myself for it and start fixing it.

It turns out that the fixes are pretty simple.

Peer interaction

Norton went to a play group for late talkers.  All of these children were determined to have no medical or behavioral issues that would contribute to being late talkers, so it was about getting them together.   You see, a lot of late talkers have parents and/or older siblings that are very good about puzzling out what the silent toddler wants by gestures and unintelligible sounds.  When we’re that good at figuring it out, there’s really no need for the little one to talk.  Other toddlers aren’t going to be so intuitive, so talking to each other to get the point across is crucial.

Parent modeling

This was the hardest thing for me to get in the habit of.  I always spoke to Norton in sentences.  I’m not really a one word answer sort of person.  The best thing to do to get talking happening is to model the behavior.  Blow bubbles and say “Bubbles.”  Just that one word.  Model it and hope that your child will learn to say it.  Sometimes it’s quick.  Sometimes it takes a while.  The same can be done with other concepts like “up” and “down” or “open” and “close.”  Once your child is using one word, then you start adding in some two word phrases, like “shoes on” or “all done.”

It’s really funny, though, because when I read that in It Takes Two to Talk, it seemed like an impossible ideal.  Now it’s become such a natural thing to model the behavior for Norton that the speech pathologist commented on how well we were doing for him.

If you’re coping with a toddler language delay of your own, I really do recommend that you get the book called It Takes Two to Talk.  It’s a fantastic book and is actually the source of some of the handouts that our language center gives to some parents.

Have you had a late talker?  How did you work through it?

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. My oldest was a delayed talker. Even though I was never overly concerned, others were for me, lol. It all worked out in the end and once he started talking, he never stopped. Did great in school too.

    I am glad you had such great resources to help you through this.

  2. My kids weren’t late talkers, but my niece was and everyone was worried, but I knew she’d just start talking one day, and I was right!

  3. If you’re having success with Parent Modeling, have you considered using Sign Language? It can help with building confidence and understanding. You can find plenty of signs on YouTube and get started with one or two during meals (more and all done).

    Good luck with this. It sounds like you’re already taking an active role in helping your son and that is great!


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