Q&A: 21 Month Old Not Pronouncing Words

CME WebsitesChild Development, Toddlers 12 - 36 Months

blockquote_bgMy son just turned 21 months. He is very active and “speaks” a lot with a wide variety of sounds but is not clearly pronouncing words other than “no” and “uh-oh”. He can communicate what he wants through pointing and grunting but again his lack of vocabulary has me worried. My niece is 3 months older than him and is speaking in 3-4 word sentences and I am concerned about his lack of ability to verbally communicate more clearly. I have an appointment with his pediatrician next Thursday at which time I will be discussing this with her, but I am curious as to a professional’s opinion as to whether or not you would think further testing should be done.

It sounds like you are being pro-active by discussing this with your son’s pediatrician. Generally at age 24 months we are looking for children to have a single word vocabulary of at least 15 concrete words that they use consistently (not counting mama, dada or exclamations like uh-oh) and typically most children will have as many as 50 single words by this time. At age two we also look for children to begin to combine 2 words into simple phrases such as “Mommy go”, “Daddy work”, “Me bye-bye”.

Before age 3 we do not look at articulation or how clearly words are pronounced. So for example, if your son is saying “gog” for dog or “paghetti” for spaghetti and using the same word approximations for the same objects this is still within the norm, as many toddlers are still having trouble blending sounds together and may leave consonants off the beginning or ends of some words. If your son is using only “no” and “uh-oh” consistently and not imitating new words or combining 2 words together within the next month or so you may want to schedule a speech evaluation from early intervention just to rule out any problems. Your doctor should be able to give you information on how to access your local early intervention provider. You can also check the Speech 12-24 months link on our website for more speech tips/red flags.