By the age of 2 your child should know at least 50 vocabulary words or more.  They should also be able to make animal noises on command.  Two word phrases will come into their speech as well.  Pronouns such as mine will start being used.  Words may not always be pronounced clearly or correctly, but 50% of what your 2 year old is saying should be understood by you

If your child does not use 50 words and is not saying two word phrases they are thought to be delayed in their speech.  Late talking can sometimes be the first sign of other conditions.  



Late talking is defined as a child that understands more than they say. 

Here is a list of things that late talkers may do; only say a few words, make words up when talking, or grunt while playing or looking at pictures, the child does not imitate words or sounds, uses gestures, cannot say two words together in a phrase, and has difficulty asking for questions. 

These are all things to look out for if you suspect your child is a late talker.  



One of the main causes of speech delay in children is hearing loss.  There are 3 in every 1000 babies that are born with hearing loss.  When there is a speech delay a hearing test should always be done.  Any kind of hearing loss can cause your child to have trouble saying, understanding, imitating, or using language. 

Another cause of speech delay is oral impairment.  This could be because there is a problem with the tongue, the palate or the roof of the mouth, or the frenulum is too short which can cause trouble with tongue movement.  Some children suffer from oral motor problems when there is a problem in the part of the brain that controls speech.  Oral motor problems may also cause trouble with feeding.  

There are a number of conditions that can cause speech delay as a sign or symptom.  Autism spectrum disorder may cause speech delays as well as trouble with communication altogether.  A child with autism spectrum disorder may not respond to their name, or understand basic commands or questions.  They also may not make any sounds or use gestures at all. 

Other conditions that can cause speech delays are cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, childhood apraxia of speech, dysarthria, or selective mutism. 

Developmental expressive language disorder is a condition that causes trouble for a child to express themselves with speech, gestures and writing.  Writing may not be noticeable with a toddler. 

Receptive language disorder causes difficulty in understanding and processing language that your child may hear.  

Lack of stimulation can cause speech delays.  If your child isn’t being exposed to regular speech, songs, activities, or enough different words it can cause a delay. 

Cognitive delays can also occur.  Cognitive delays are when your child has trouble understanding and using language.  


Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suspect your child is delayed in their speech it is important to take them to get checked out by their pediatrician.  Early intervention can be the key to catching your child up with their speech. 

Your pediatrician may refer you to a speech-language pathologist.  The speech-language pathologist will check the language and speech skills of your child.  What they will look for is what the child understands, what the child can say, sound development and clarity, and oral-motor status.  Depending on what the pathologist finds they may recommend speech therapy as a treatment option.  Speech therapy may be playing games, reading books, practicing sounds and syllables with the child.  It is normally done by a speech pathologist


Things You Can Do 

There are lots of things parents can do at home to help encourage communication with their child.  Talk with your child.  Talk to your child.  Narrate your day to them, telling them you are doing the dishes, how you do the dishes, why you do the dishes.  Talking randomly out loud with no one to respond may take practice for some adults to get used to.  This can expose your child to a lot of different words on a daily basis. 

Another thing you can do as a parent to encourage communication is sing songs. 

Encourage your child to imitate you and gesture to things when talking about them. 

Read to your child.  Reading builds vocabulary, and you can also use it to make conversation with your child.  Have them point to different things on the page.  When you are trying to encourage talking from your child it is important to avoid baby talk.  



One study that was done following the progress of late talkers showed that 74% of the children that were late talkers, were caught up and had normal speech by the time they started school.  Early intervention can be key. 

If there is an underlying condition that causes the speech delay, depending on the condition depends on how your child’s delay will progress as they get older. 

Many two year olds that have speech delays have behavioral issues because they are frustrated they cannot properly communicate.  As a parent it is important to stay patient when working with your child on their speech.  


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