Medical Q&As

Toddler speech - very few words?

My 2½-year-old son can only say very few words clearly and cannot express himself at all when he wants something. He would rather point at a can of juice than say he wants it. Is this normal at this age?

The purpose of speech is to communicate and if your toddler can communicate his needs to you by pointing then he is communicating effectively with you. It is not unusual for toddlers to communicate in this way and it is important to realise that toddlers differ widely both in how much they talk and how easy it is for others to understand their speech. As a general rule of thumb, and this is a crude yardstick, you should be able to understand about half of what the child is saying. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about clarity of speech at this stage because clear articulation will come as the child matures. You can help your child by enunciating clearly when you speak. Name objects when he points at them. It is also worth noting that toddlers often name objects incorrectly and tend to drop end consonants in their speech. For example, the family pet cat may become a ca. Having made these various points; I always pay attention to a mother’s instincts about her child. If you strongly feel that there is something wrong with your child then visit your GP and tell the doctor of your concerns. Some children can have difficulties with their speech because of an underlying hearing problem. However, if you are happy overall with the state of your child’s development you can be assured that pointing behaviour and lack of clarity in speech is quite common and normal in this age group.