Q: Why doesn’t my child talk to me? 

A:By 12 months most children can start to use gestures, say a few words, babble and copy sounds their parents are making. By 18 months, children normally have a repertoire of 6-20 words they can say in context.  

However young children do go through each stage of development at their own pace.  

Just because your child isn’t talking, doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating.  

In young children, communication can be so much more that just talking. It includes eye contact, gesture, imitation, pointing and even mimicking your actions and words.  

Children learn by being given both the space to answer and the information to answer with.  

Sometimes it’s hard with young children waiting for them to ask for help and request something when you, as a parent, might already know exactly what they want.  

Giving your child the space to communicate by whatever means they are comfortable with is important for a child’s continued speech and language development.  

 We recommend the following strategies to promote your child’s communication initiation.  

Stop and Wait, give you child a chance to communicate:  

When you and your child are doing an activity that can be repeated over and over (e.g blowing bubbles) – pause during the activity from time to time. Say the word you would like your child to use during these opportunities and praise all attempts your child makes to communicate with you.     

Offer your Child a Choice :  

Offer your child a choice so they can send a specific message about something they would like. For example, “Do you want the apple or the banana?”. Your child will likely send you a message in their own way about what they want. They may look at the item they want, reach for it, point at it or make a sound while looking at it. As soon as they let you know what they want, give it to them. This allows them to experience the power of communication.  

Put the Child’s Message into words:  

When your child communicates using gesture, sounds, point looking or reaching, put into words what you think they are trying to tell you. Use a short sentence to capture their message. By using fewer words you make it easier for your child to hear the important words in a sentence, that is the words that carry the most meaning. Example: If your child points to a truck and says “Gah” you can reply and say “Truck”.  

Always remember:   

Encourage and praise all attempts at talking or changes in your child’s way of communicating.   

Act as if your child has used real words and respond appropriately.    

Make language fun.  Enjoy your communicating times together.    

Practice makes perfect: Repetition and continual interaction with your child are the keys to success!    

References:    Girolametto,  L.  &  Weitzman,  E.  (2006). It  Takes  Two  to  Talk —The  Hanen  Program®  for  Parents:  Early Language  Intervention  throughCaregiver  Training.  In  R.  McCauley  and  M.  Fey  (Eds.), Treatment  of  language disorders in children, pp. 77-103. New York:Brookes Publishing.   
Raising  Children  Network  (Australia)  Limited©  (2006-2014). Language  development:  an  amazing  journey. Retrieved from http://raisingchildren.net.au.