My fifteen (almost sixteen) month old has very limited spoken language. He makes a couple of sounds (ba, ma) for a variety of things. He has never said "mama" or "dada" or "bye bye" or anything like that. Occasionally we think he might be trying to copy our sounds, but I'm never quite sure.

Does anyone know what is normal spoken language skills for this age?

asked 20 Jan '10, 21:53

Emily's gravatar image

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edited 30 Jan '10, 18:54

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Tammy ♦♦


Hi Emily. A new user to the site (tegan77) asks: "I am wondering what your experience has been since this question. I am starting to get concerned and panic slightly about things like autism etc."

(18 May '10, 00:22) Scott ♦♦

Tegan77, my son is now 20 months old and has only 2-3 words. He was evaluated by a speech therapist and found to be significantly delayed (he's where a normal 12 month old would be). We have begun speech therapy and we'll see how he does! Oh, and don't worry about autism unless he displays other autistic behaviors. As long as he's a happy, cheerful, affectionate child who isn't talking, the problem is probably just speech. So says our therapist!

(18 May '10, 02:20) Emily

Thanks Emily. Keep us posted. Mine is now the same age as yours when you asked the question, and it's debatable whether he has any words at all, too.

(31 Aug '10, 14:44) Anne

According to this site, an 18-month old typically has a vocabulary of 5-20 words, whereas a 12-month old may use one or more words with meaning. There is some variation and by the sound of it your child is maybe just towards the lower end of that spectrum. If it is obvious that the sounds are being used with intent, then I wouldn't worry.

6 Months:

  • Vocalization with intonation
  • Responds to his name
  • Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
  • Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones

12 Months:

  • Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
  • Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
  • Practices inflection
  • Is aware of the social value of speech

18 Months:

  • Has vocabulary of approximately 5-20 words
  • Vocabulary made up chiefly of nouns
  • Some echolalia (repeating a word or phrase over and over)
  • Much jargon with emotional content
  • Is able to follow simple commands

answered 20 Jan '10, 22:44

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Rich Seller
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edited 20 Jan '10, 22:49

+1 such a nice breakdown!

(20 Jan '10, 22:52) Emi

You may find this link helpful - it talks about speech & language development, general milestones, things that could indicate possible issues and things you as a parent can do to help promote language development.

My daughter was slow to talk too (only a handful of words at 18 months), but my doctor was more concerned whether or not she could follow one and two step instructions (like go to the living room and get your cup) - lack of comprehension is a warning sign that the above article mentions too. She's 2.5 now and talks a mile a minute (sheesh!)

You could also make an appointment to get his ears checked. If he has problems hearing, that would definitely impact his speech development (again, well documented in the above article).


answered 20 Jan '10, 23:01

Kate's gravatar image

accept rate: 20%

+1 for checking the ears, we've been warned that as our son has glue ear (on top of everything else!) he may be later in talking.

(22 Feb '10, 16:38) pete the pagan-gerbil

As I mentioned in my answer to another question, I have a note that at my daughter's 12 month appointment we told the pediatrician that our daughter could say or sign about 20 words: mama, dada, hi, ball, hat, cheese, kitty, up, more, teeth, all done (sign), book (sign), block, dog (woof, woof), [ba]nana.

That said, I don't think it's uncommon for girls to be ahead of boys verbally at such a young age. . .or maybe even in old age. :)

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it, not yet anyway, but if you are worried, I'd check with your pediatrician.


answered 21 Jan '10, 02:10

Phil's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

From my experience as a speech therapist boys are commonly later talkers while first over girls to develop their gross motor skills like running, jumping, throwing a ball, etc. So you should take that into consideration along with the language milestones.


answered 29 Jan '10, 20:50

Sabrina's gravatar image

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From my experiences with my three children, at 15 months old a child may have no words at all, and still be speaking pretty well by two and a half (the age at which our local health service do a check up which includes language development). I don't recall being able to pick out any clear words from any of mine at that age.

As others have said, the worry at that age would be if there was evidence of lack of hearing - not recognising their name or a few simple words (what happens when you ask if he wants a cookie?).


answered 21 Jan '10, 18:36

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Meg Stephenson
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I have three kids that but clearly remember that my first, a boy, took forever to start everything, talking walking etc. By the time school rolled around this kid was accelerating at light speed. Now at 17 he is in advanced everything in school. Don't worry, just keep loving! :)


answered 26 Feb '10, 16:25

Chris's gravatar image

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My littlest guy is 16 months old and has exactly 5 words. Da, up, hi, and j-be (jelly bean, it's what his teenage brothers bribe the littles with and I look the other way in the interest of sibling bonding) and just yesterday started saying Mama (yes, I came after jelly-bean). He doesn't need to talk, his almost 3 year old sister will do his talking for him, thank you very much.

If you're worried, talk to your doctor at your 18 month check-up, but kids learn things at their own speed regardless of what "normal" is. When I fret about the little kids not meeting milestones right on schedule, my oldest reminds me that Albert Einstein didn't speak until after he was 2.


answered 31 Jan '10, 09:06

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edited 22 Feb '10, 15:28

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Rich Seller

Don't worry too much, my son only had a few words at 12-15 months, but they're coming thick and fast at the 18 month stage.


answered 01 Mar '10, 07:58

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Asked: 20 Jan '10, 21:53

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Last updated: 17 May '10, 22:15