Q&A: Toddler Not Saying First Letters of Words

blockquote_bgMy son is 26 months old. He is an only child but has attended daycare since he was 6 weeks old. My son doesn’t say the beginning of most words such as BANANA; its just NANA. He can follow simple directions and has OK social skills. Like most kids, he has his days. He can say things like “come one mama”, or “lets go” and “mama what you doing” or “where she go?”. He knows his colors and can count to 10. I just wonder if he is having problems with speech because he isn’t saying the beginning of some words. Should I have him looked at?

It sounds like your son has a good start on an emerging expressive language vocabulary and several simple 2-3 word phrases, which would be appropriate for 26 months of age. At age two we typically look for a child to have an expressive single word vocabulary of around 50 words or more and the ability to put 2-3 words together such as your son is doing with “let’s go” or “come on Mom”. If he is also following one to two step commands for you such as “Get your shoes” or “Pick up your book and put it on the table” then he sounds as if his language skills both expressively and receptively are age appropriate. Do not be concerned that he is leaving off some initial sounds of words or pronouncing some words unclearly. As therapists we do not begin to look at articulation or clarity of speech until after age three.

Many toddlers still have difficulty with initial or ending sounds or even pronouncing words that have more than one syllable such as banana as you mentioned. You will often hear toddlers say “nana” for banana or “paghetti” or just “ghetti” for spaghetti, but by being a good language role model you are always pronouncing the word correctly for them, so they can see and hear you say it. When your son says “nana” you reply “Yes, you want a BAnana” stressing the initial sound for him, but there is not need to correct him or point out that he is saying it incorrectly as this may only frustrate him. You can even break the words down and practice beginning, middle and ending sounds with your son for words with more than two syllables,by having him repeat after you as a game “ba”, “na”, “na”. You may    also hear toddlers say “boo” for blue or “cacker” for cracker or “scare” for square and this is also typical since many toddlers will particularly have difficulty with words which involve blends such as “bl, pl, cr, sp, fr, pr, sq, and st”. It is helpful again for you to slow down and let your son watch your lips and hear you say these sounds as he attempts to imitate you. You can also use a mirror during speech play so he can see his own lips, tongue and mouth form the sounds and words. As your son approaches age three, if you are not seeing improvement in his ability to pronounce beginning sounds of words or you or the day care staff are still concerned with the clarity of his speech, then you may want to seek an evaluation from a licensed speech pathologist to look at his articulation.