Thank you for writing in.
There are several components to language acquisition, including comprehension, following orders, tracking your conversations with another adult and imitating the rhythm and cadence of your speech. Your son is displaying many of these signs as well as sophisticated cognitive function in other areas.
Toddlers tend to experience bursts of speech. For no apparent reason from the outside, they’ll round a corner and their vocabulary will double. There is usually a burst around age two or shortly before or after. Your son will begin utilizing the vocabulary he has already acquired, stringing more two-word sentences together, “up, peez,” “cat go,” “bye, dad,” etc, fleshing out the second syllable to words, and he will continue to increase his vocabulary.
In the meantime, if you want to do speech and language promoting activities you can:
- Narrate your experience & your thought process as you complete daily tasks.
- When your son communicates to you non-verbally, respond with the words for him; if he points to the crackers respond with “Momma, may I have some crackers, please?” or a simpler, “Crackers, please?”
- “Quiz” your son on body parts, family members, pets, familiar objects, etc. If he doesn’t give you the word, give it for him. Give encouragement regardless of how the word sounds when he reiterates it.
- Sing simple songs with repetitive words.
- Point out things and name them all the time.
- Ask your son to repeat words after you.
- Read books out loud (I’m sure you already do this!)
- Always talk to your son as if he understands and is responding with language.
They say most toddlers have 20 words at 18 months and 50 words by two years, with variability within those averages. Extenuating circumstances such as a second language spoken in the home, or factors seemingly unrelated to speech and language acquisition can affect a child’s development in this area as well. From your description, your son is well within the range of normal speech and language development, but ask your pediatrician at your next well-baby visit for a second opinion.
Sometimes grandparents’ observations are off the mark and filled with unnecessary worry, and sometimes a grandparent has the necessary objectivity to notice an important developmental delay that needs attention. Learning to be thankful for their caring enough to notice and take an active role, and yet, still maintain connected to your intuition and your sense of things and not absorb their anxiety is a delicate balance. It can be helpful to always get the second opinion from your pediatrician in the case of child development issues to put your mother’s (and your) mind at ease. In this case, however, I believe your 20 month-old is right on track.
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