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5 Strategies for 18-Month-Old Not Talking or Just Babbling

Jan 19th, 2022 | by Tate Strack

Tate Strack

January 19th, 2022

You are at a playdate with a friend, and you realize that your 18-month-old is not talking or babbling as much as your friend’s child. Do not worry – you are not alone! It is so important to remember that all children develop at different rates. Just because your child is not exhibiting a certain skill now, does not mean they will not achieve the milestone later. Speech and language pathologists can frequently evaluate and treat early communicators, helping to support you along the way. 

18 Month Speech Milestones

At 18-months-old (or within the 12-24 month range) your child should be able to hear and understand the following: 

  • Points to a few major body parts when asked, such as tummy, feet, nose, mouth. 
  • Follows simple 1-step directions, such as “take it out” or “kiss the baby” 
  • Shows understanding of simple questions, such as “Where is the ball?” or “Who’s that?” 
  • Enjoys listening to stories, songs, fingerplays and nursery rhymes 
  • Understands some early prepositions, such as in, on, out, off
  • Chooses familiar objects from a group on request 
  • Understands familiar action words, such as jump, clap, swing 

How Much Should an 18-Month-Old Talk?

Each child develops speech and language skills at their own pace, so these milestones are approximate and will look different for each child. At 18-months-old (or within the 12-24 month range) your child should be able to use the following expressive language skills: 

  • Imitates play sounds and words 
  • Uses true words within jargon or babbling 
  • Uses a variety of speech sounds such as, p, b, m, h, w 
  • Starting to name familiar objects 
  • Uses gestures to communicate with intention 
  • Uses language to have needs met, such as asking for ‘more’ 
  • Asks simple questions, such as “What’s that?”, or “Where’s daddy?” 
  • Begins to put two words together, such as “more eat”, “mommy go”, and “no bed” 

 

18-Month-Old Not Talking? Try These 5 Strategies

Wondering how to get an 18-month-old to talk? These are some of NAPA’s speech therapist’s favorite strategies to create a language rich environment for your child and motivate them to use their voice!

1. Parallel-Talk or Self-Talk:

Parallel-talk and self-talk are both quick and easy ways to expose your child to more language 

  • Parallel-Talk: narrating what you are doing during the day, such as “Put ball in”, “Car goes up!”, or “Open the book” 
  • Self-Talk: narrating what your child is doing during the day, such as “Pop the bubbles”, “Turn the page”, or “Take cookie out” 

2. Gentle Sabotage:

Refers to withholding motivating materials and/or activities to support initiation of expressive language, such as waiting for your child to use a word or word approximation to request before rolling the ball back to them 

3. Recasting:

Repeating something your child says with more detailed or grammatically correct language.

  • For instance, if your child says “more” – you could say, “I heard you telling me you want more!” followed up with “more cookie” or “I want more” 

4. Helping Phrases:

Sing or speak a familiar verbal routine or song and intentionally pause; the pause provides your child the opportunity to “fill in the blank” with verbal approximations or words. You can do this with a variety of repetitive routines:

  • Some of NAPA speech therapist’s favorites is with music, pausing to complete the verse of a repetitive song – such as E-I-E-I… wait for “OH” 

5. Expectant Pause:

A way to prompt for communication without doing anything! The absence of verbal or gestural prompting gives your child the time to initiate and communicate when they are ready 

  • This may seem uncomfortable, and we often find ourselves wanting to fill the silence – when you feel the urge to say something, wait three more seconds before prompting! 

Again, each child develops speech and language skills at their own pace, so these milestones are approximate and will look different for each child.

For a more individualized understanding on 18-month-old’s not talking or only babbling, schedule a speech and language evaluation or consult with a speech language pathologist for further assistance!  

Find Additional Resources and Activities in the NAPA Speech Therapy Blog:

About the Author: 

Tate Strack is a paediatric speech language pathologist at NAPA Centre Boston. When she’s not in a speech session, you can find her working out, binge watching a wide variety of TV series or eating dessert for dinner.  

TAGS: Blogs, SLP