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16 month old communicates through singing but does not talk--UPDATED

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I was going to post this in toddlers, but after reading a thread here on late talkers, I thought I'd post here. I'm not sure that DS is gifted, but I suspect that he may be. I believe my 3yo dd is; Dh and I both are.

DS is 16 months and seems happy and fine in most ways. I've begun to be a bit concerned, though, that he doesn't talk. He can say "ma" and "da," but it's not consistent. He laughs, cries and squeals when he is excited, but often he is so quiet that I lose him in the house (these times he is usually undertaking some project in the real or play kitchen or trying to work the fax machine). Although he doesn't talk, he does sing, on the syllables "ma," "da," or "aaa." He has been doing this since four months old. At first it was three notes on the same pitch in a certain rhythm. Now, a year later, he has what sounds like a couple of made up songs and a repertoire of about eight songs that I and anyone else can recognize. The pitch and rhythm are perfect, and he even has a sense of "phrasing," singing some parts louder or softer, slowing down at the very end, and so forth. He has also pounded out rhythms with hands or sticks since he was about six months old.

I have tried to encourage him to talk, but he has no interest. My daughter was speaking in sentences at his age, so I have to remind myself that he's a different kid. He won't repeat sounds I make, or if he does try, they just come out sounding like "da" or "ma." He almost seems to have an aversion to the spoken word. If I try to read to him, he closes the book, sits on the book, or just starts singing. He also sings to communicate when he is angry or frustrated. He also wake up in the middle of the night, singing.

On the one hand, I want to encourage his love for music. On the other hand, I am concerned that he's not talking. Do I need to be looking into some kind of early intervention? Encouraging him to learn and communicate through music? Both? Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? Is this more common than I think?
post #2 of 29
IME, this is somewhat unusual. He sounds like he has some amazing musical ability, and that might indeed be a way in to teaching him words.

Does he do non-verbal communication kind of things? So, if he sees something cool, does he point to it and look at you? If he wants something, does he gesture? Have you tried signing (that's SIGNING, not SINGING ) with him? If he doesn't do a lot of non-verbal stuff, I'd be worried.

The fact that he makes so few consonant sounds would concern me. Does he babble? Especially sounds other than ma or da? Some kids ARE quieter by nature, but almost all kids will practice sounds at this age. Most kids will have some strings that sound like real words.

If he's not learning words soon, I would have him evaluated by early intervention in your state to see what's up. 16 months is on the 'late' end for getting words. You should also have his hearing testing. I know that sounds odd, given his ability to sing, but you do want to make sure that he can hear the sounds in the range of speech.
post #3 of 29
I agree with the PP. It's receptive speech that's the most important. Does he respond to the things you do and say?
Mine also sang (and danced to the rhythm) before they spoke but not to the extent that yours does. It's a typical visual-spatial trait. Sounds like you have a little musician in the making...
post #4 of 29
I feel like I'm always plugging Signing Time. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out. It's on PBS in some places, and you can sometimes find it at the library. It's a great combination of singing and sign language. It sounds funny, I know, but it's very compelling for young children (and not hideous for adults, which is always a nice bonus in children's programming). It might be very appealing to your son. Signing helps non-communicative children express their needs more easily. It's a really fabulous program that helped us a ton with our late talker. At a time when our daughter had fewer than ten words, she had something like 70 signs. We probably all would have been crazy if not for that. She still knows more signs than I do, though she doesn't need them anymore.

Another thing I would add is that you shouldn't hesitate to advocate for the services you think your child might need. Our doctor didn't want to send us for a speech evaluation until our daughter was 3, but she was accepted for speech services at 22 months, and probably could have used it before that. (On the other hand, I should say that late talking in itself isn't always a problem. Our DD was also doing some strange simplifications and vowel changes, among other things.)

ETA: The first two episodes of the first season don't have much music compared to the later episodes, so keep that in mind if you decide to try it out!
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
Does he do non-verbal communication kind of things? So, if he sees something cool, does he point to it and look at you? If he wants something, does he gesture? Have you tried signing (that's SIGNING, not SINGING ) with him?

The fact that he makes so few consonant sounds would concern me. Does he babble? Especially sounds other than ma or da?
Non-verbal communication? He doesn't point. He mostly just cries, whines or sings at things until I figure it out. This morning he wanted to brush his teeth; he stood next to the sink with the toothpaste in his hand whining and looking at me. I have tried signing with him, but he hasn't really taken to it. I guess he does babble sometimes. Sometimes "ya ya ya" and "ne ne."

Quote:
Originally Posted by VanessaS View Post
I agree with the PP. It's receptive speech that's the most important. Does he respond to the things you do and say?
Mine also sang (and danced to the rhythm) before they spoke but not to the extent that yours does. It's a typical visual-spatial trait. Sounds like you have a little musician in the making...
I feel like he doesn't respond to things I do or say except through crying, singing or laughing. For instance, just now, I made him sit down to put shoes on before going outside, and he sang his angry song. After thinking about your question, I realize he has said "ba ba." There must be something I always say before getting off the phone because when I am on the phone he says "ba ba" BEFORE I say "bye bye." So maybe I say something like "I'll talk to you later"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by freistms View Post
I feel like I'm always plugging Signing Time. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out. It's on PBS in some places, and you can sometimes find it at the library. It's a great combination of singing and sign language. It sounds funny, I know, but it's very compelling for young children (and not hideous for adults, which is always a nice bonus in children's programming). It might be very appealing to your son. Signing helps non-communicative children express their needs more easily. It's a really fabulous program that helped us a ton with our late talker. At a time when our daughter had fewer than ten words, she had something like 70 signs. We probably all would have been crazy if not for that. She still knows more signs than I do, though she doesn't need them anymore.

Another thing I would add is that you shouldn't hesitate to advocate for the services you think your child might need. Our doctor didn't want to send us for a speech evaluation until our daughter was 3, but she was accepted for speech services at 22 months, and probably could have used it before that. (On the other hand, I should say that late talking in itself isn't always a problem. Our DD was also doing some strange simplifications and vowel changes, among other things.)

ETA: The first two episodes of the first season don't have much music compared to the later episodes, so keep that in mind if you decide to try it out!
Thanks, I'll check out signing time, even though my attempts at signing with him in the past have not been all that successful.
post #6 of 29
Quote:
I feel like he doesn't respond to things I do or say except through crying, singing or laughing. For instance, just now, I made him sit down to put shoes on before going outside, and he sang his angry song.
Although, I guess "singing the angry song" counts as a response. In other words: he's not oblivious to what's going on around him and is trying to communicate his wishes and feelings. Gesturing isn't the only way to do that.
My DD is a lot like your DS, I think. I worried about her a lot but recently she started communicating more and is FINALLY starting to speak.
I'd get him evaluated but I wouldn't worry over-much about it. It sounds to me like his brain is VERY busy with music which might be crowding out other skills. With my DD the preoccupation is with climbing and acrobatics. But get him checked out, just in case.
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VanessaS View Post
Although, I guess "singing the angry song" counts as a response. In other words: he's not oblivious to what's going on around him and is trying to communicate his wishes and feelings. Gesturing isn't the only way to do that.
My DD is a lot like your DS, I think. I worried about her a lot but recently she started communicating more and is FINALLY starting to speak.
I'd get him evaluated but I wouldn't worry over-much about it. It sounds to me like his brain is VERY busy with music which might be crowding out other skills. With my DD the preoccupation is with climbing and acrobatics. But get him checked out, just in case.
Thanks for the responses. I've been listening to him more carefully since I first posted. He has added another consonant--"v"--so I feel mildly encouraged. I moved up his 18 month well-baby by a couple of weeks, so I'll talk to the ped about it. Although, I do have some concern about him being labeled as something he is not. I feel there is a connection between him not speaking and his doing some other things very well, like singing. I am just afraid the ped or even some specialist might just see what he does NOT do, not what he DOES do. I don't think I have articulated this very well. At any rate, thanks for the responses. BTW, he is still very resistant to signing.
post #8 of 29
I have three children, all of whom would be considered gifted. None of them were speaking at 16 months. They did, however, have large signing vocabularies with 300-400 signs and were signing in sentences. I highly recommend using ASL with babies and toddlers. I can only imagine the frustration my children would have experienced had they not been able to communicate.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boheime View Post
I have three children, all of whom would be considered gifted. None of them were speaking at 16 months. They did, however, have large signing vocabularies with 300-400 signs and were signing in sentences. I highly recommend using ASL with babies and toddlers. I can only imagine the frustration my children would have experienced had they not been able to communicate.
Is Signing Time ASL? We have a video called Talking Hands that I played the other day; he wasn't really interested. I'll look into Signing Time. The thing is, my concern is not that he is frustrated at not being able to communicate. On the contrary, he seems perfectly happy and content. He shows no interest in talking, signing or actively learning new words.
post #10 of 29
I think at 16 months, it is both unusual and worrisome if he is not actively seeking to communicate in some way. I know you said that he sings, and you can apparently perceive different emotional states based on the different songs he sings, but I can't imagine that this is a very effective way to communicate. And it may be that he is not doing it to communicate with others, but just to soothe himself. Does he do anything that you perceive as an attempt to communicate with you? The fact that you can read him and figure out his desires does not necessarily mean that he is trying to communicate with you.

And, if your perception really is that he does not really respond to anything you say or do (as I think you wrote), that is also very worrisome.

In short, I think this definitely warrants an EI evaluation. Don't wait to seek help just because you are worried that others will not perceive his gifts. If they don't, they don't. That doesn't mean that they can't help to provide him with the tools he needs to start communicating.
post #11 of 29
As far as him not liking to sign, my DS was quite resistant to signing, but when he found that it worked for him (signing please got him whatever he pointed at/wanted), he decided it was ok and then became interested in learning more words. And to teach I would say it while showing him, then do his hand while saying it (which he would resist at times), then give him what he wanted right away. It did click with him and now he uses it a lot. My DD loved to sign quite young and she didn't resist like my DS did. So I guess I'm trying to say that I don't think a little resistance should mean you give up (and I don't think he needs to like a video about it either, if he does then fine, but if not, fine too).

Do you have any friends who would be honest with you if you asked them about him? I think someone who has seen your son a bit and has heard him and knows him might be better able to tell you - oh, that's just like my kid or oh, now that you mention it he does seem behind in that area... Some of what you say sounds a lot like my DS, who just now at 15 months has started to throw out a lot more sounds and "words". But some of what you say doesn't sound like him, and I don't know if those things you mention are things to be concerned about or not.

An evaluation here or there and even EI doesn't have to give your son a label or a diagnosis of anything, and if you worry about people labeling him then just don't tell them you're doing it and they won't know.

Tjej
post #12 of 29
I too would be calling EI soon (ok I admit that after having my three oldest in speech therapy, I procrastinated on my fourth one and he suddenly started talking two weeks before his 18-month appt. phew.). My ped's rule is 5 words by 18 months or you're calling EI. Period. Of course, there's nothing wrong with calling earlier - she was totally hounding me early on with my fourth due to the family history (and now watching again with baited breath since my fifth is 9 months. no, no words yet LOL, though he's at least making sounds).

Late talking and/or the need for speech therapy is a separate issue from giftedness. But as a PP mentioned, gifted kids who are late talkers do tend to be visual-spatial, right-brained learners ( www.visual-spatial.org ) (in some cases, there are left-brain, auditory-sequential weaknesses as well, but certainly not always. The thinking goes that speech is a left-brain activity).

my two cents
post #13 of 29
I would contact EI.

I view specialists as people with particular sets of knowledge with whom I consult. IME, sometimes they've been off the mark, and other times they've given me sound advice and pointed me in directions I wouldn't have found myself.

Consulting is not the same as getting a label. I would recommend looking at is as seeking a consultation from a subject-matter expert, rather than a diagnostic procedure at this point.
post #14 of 29
Thread Starter 
Wow, mamas, thank you so much for your responses!

Quote:
Originally Posted by no5no5 View Post
I think at 16 months, it is both unusual and worrisome if he is not actively seeking to communicate in some way. I know you said that he sings, and you can apparently perceive different emotional states based on the different songs he sings, but I can't imagine that this is a very effective way to communicate. And it may be that he is not doing it to communicate with others, but just to soothe himself. Does he do anything that you perceive as an attempt to communicate with you? The fact that you can read him and figure out his desires does not necessarily mean that he is trying to communicate with you.

And, if your perception really is that he does not really respond to anything you say or do (as I think you wrote), that is also very worrisome.

In short, I think this definitely warrants an EI evaluation. Don't wait to seek help just because you are worried that others will not perceive his gifts. If they don't, they don't. That doesn't mean that they can't help to provide him with the tools he needs to start communicating.
Thanks, no5no5. He does actively seek to communicate with me; just not through talking or signing. I don't think I actaully said that "he doesn't really respond to anything I say or do." He is def. responsive. He just doesn't have words. Also, I am not waiting to seek help "just because I am worried that others will not perceive his gifts." As I mentioned in my OP, my dd was a precocious talker. I wasn't sure whether it was common or normal for a 16 month old to only have 2 words. That is why I haven't rushed for an evaluation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjej View Post

Do you have any friends who would be honest with you if you asked them about him? I think someone who has seen your son a bit and has heard him and knows him might be better able to tell you - oh, that's just like my kid or oh, now that you mention it he does seem behind in that area... Some of what you say sounds a lot like my DS, who just now at 15 months has started to throw out a lot more sounds and "words". But some of what you say doesn't sound like him, and I don't know if those things you mention are things to be concerned about or not.

Tjej
This is a great idea, and I have talked to friends who think he is just fine. My mother is a little worried; then again, that's what she does

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowmom5 View Post
I too would be calling EI soon (ok I admit that after having my three oldest in speech therapy, I procrastinated on my fourth one and he suddenly started talking two weeks before his 18-month appt. phew.). My ped's rule is 5 words by 18 months or you're calling EI. Period. Of course, there's nothing wrong with calling earlier - she was totally hounding me early on with my fourth due to the family history (and now watching again with baited breath since my fifth is 9 months. no, no words yet LOL, though he's at least making sounds).

Late talking and/or the need for speech therapy is a separate issue from giftedness. But as a PP mentioned, gifted kids who are late talkers do tend to be visual-spatial, right-brained learners ( www.visual-spatial.org ) (in some cases, there are left-brain, auditory-sequential weaknesses as well, but certainly not always. The thinking goes that speech is a left-brain activity).

my two cents
My dh is very visual-spatial (an engineer). Not sure whether he himself was a late talker, though.

Thanks so much, really for all of the responses. DS's 18 month appt. is in one month. I will give it till then, talk to the ped. and contact ei if nothing has improved. Thanks again.
post #15 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by naismama View Post
Thanks, no5no5. He does actively seek to communicate with me; just not through talking or signing. I don't think I actaully said that "he doesn't really respond to anything I say or do." He is def. responsive. He just doesn't have words. Also, I am not waiting to seek help "just because I am worried that others will not perceive his gifts." As I mentioned in my OP, my dd was a precocious talker. I wasn't sure whether it was common or normal for a 16 month old to only have 2 words. That is why I haven't rushed for an evaluation.
Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I misunderstood. I thought you said he didn't have any words that he uses consistently. If he is communicating verbally or nonverbally and responding to things you say in a way that indicates that he understands them (e.g., points to a body part when asked), I would be much less concerned. I don't think only 2 words for a 16-month-old is that big of a deal.
post #16 of 29
Signing Time is ASL. I guess the reason I thought he might be interested in that one in particular is because it is music based, and the music is quite good compared to other signing videos we've tried. It's quick and upbeat, and related to the signs it's trying to teach (rather than just signing a song). The songs are all original music. Not trying to be pushy.

Good luck.
post #17 of 29

An Eval. Might Ease Your Mind.

At the risk of scaring you, I still have to say this.

Your DS sounds A LOT like my brother, who, yes, was on the autism spectrum. He was also gifted - 2E.

If you take him for the evaluation, you can then begin to deal with anything that should be dealt with (possibly, nothing at all). Waiting to go is not going to change who your son IS or IS NOT, but it *could* be delaying help.

My mom says she was scared to get a diagnosis too, but she said it was worth it.



-Jeanette

PS. To this day DB is still highly gifted in music. It is still one of his best and favorite methods of expressing himself/emotion.
post #18 of 29
The singing is amazing but frankly, it is not at all unusual for a child not to be speaking at 16 months. If you posted this in the regular toddlers forum, you would get tens of responses from people whose children, often quite bright but sometimes quite average, did not start speaking until two.

If you feel something is wrong with receptive language, or socially, by all means get an evaluation, but two words at 16 months is not at all odd. In fact it's quite normal, ESPECIALLY in a child who is doing very well in another area (motor skills, music, social, etc.).
post #19 of 29
At 16 months my son wasn't really saying anything other then "mama, bubba, yea" maybe "ball" or something in there too.. He didn't start talking til he was almost 2 but when he started he just started talking very clearly and by 2 1/2 he was above where other children his age were for speech..

I'm alittle surprised by how many people think its odd he isn't talking yet.. My son did however start signing around 12 months and always did lots of pointing.

I'm not sure my son is gifted (although i think he is!) he can draw amazingly well since he was 1 and is very into music (plays guitar, keyboard, drums) so we'll just wait and see..

I babysit a 19 month old and he says about 5-10 words.. his ped thinks this is fine..

trust your own feelings on it.. your the mama and know him best! if you think he needs some help then he prob does..

Try x-posting in toddlers too!
post #20 of 29
Quote:
I'm alittle surprised by how many people think its odd he isn't talking yet.. My son did however start signing around 12 months and always did lots of pointing.
I think it might be the initial misunderstanding about the OP's child's expressive AND receptive language.
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