The Sonia Show

Writer. Podcaster. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.

Late talker


Yeah, so, at two years old, The Boy is still not a talker.

He babbles. He babbles a lot. He babbles nonstop. And there are a few words here and there in all that babbling, but he’s not a talker. He says, “mama” or “mom,” but usually when he is mad. I’ve heard him say “diaper,” “Elmo,” “dog,” stuff like that, but he doesn’t say it consistently. He says things in Spanish sometimes. We’ve heard “hola” and an attempt to say “buenos dias.” He sometimes points out colors and names them in Spanish. He doesn’t ask for milk. He takes my hand and walks me into the kitchen and points and babbles. If he wants to watch Elmo, he babbles something and hands us an Elmo DVD. He’s babbling, and he thinks we understand everything he is saying, because he understands everything we’re saying.

At his two-year checkup, we shared with the doctor that The Boy doesn’t say a lot of words. Babbling, yes. Talking? No. She gave us a questionnaire for autism, and he passed that test, meaning he doesn’t have autism. He has an appointment to get his ears checked next week, but I’m pretty sure he hears just fine. You make even the slightest noise like walking by his room while he is napping, and he responds.

The doctor also gave us some paperwork for speech therapy. I’m waiting until after the hearing test to send it in. She feels that Calvin is most likely just a late talker. She recommended pulling The Boy out of nannyshare and putting him in preschool, which I am reluctant to do just yet. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to fill out the paperwork and let the speech therapists decide if Calvin is a candidate for their services, she said.

Ah, yes. Late talkers. The ol’ “he’s a late talker.”

The doctor, along with several friends and family members, said, “He’s a late talker.” Some kids are late talkers. Some people say boys, in particular, are late talkers. Also, he is with a Spanish-speaking nanny all day, and we don’t speak Spanish at all. (I took Spanish in high school, but all I can remember are some colors, numbers, hello and goodbye, and I can ask where the library is, and I ask what time is it. Yay! Public education!) Some child experts say that spending all day with a Spanish-speaking nanny could result in language delay. The doctor said no, but I think she’s wrong. What does she know? She just went to medical school and studied and devoted her life to children’s health, right?

Before the doctor’s appointment, I was worried. Even though I’ve heard all the stories about late talkers. I still worried. Now, I’m not really that worried. I’m curious to get the hearing test results and I would love to hear what the speech therapy folks have to say. But when I look at Calvin I see a really happy, healthy little boy. He’s frustrated sometimes. He’s not being understood, and that’s frustrating for him and for us.

We have friends with kids who are just a few months older than Calvin and some with kids a few months younger than Calvin. Their kids talk. Their kids talk a lot. They say complete sentences. They are super verbal. And when I’m around them, I feel the need to point out that Calvin isn’t talking that much yet, just babbling, but he’s OK. I’m not worried about The Boy’s talking, because I know he will talk, but the truth is I’m jealous.

There. I said it. I’m jealous. I’m totally jealous.

I wish Calvin was more verbal. I want to talk with Calvin so bad. I can’t wait to talk with Calvin! I know it’s going to happen, but we’re not there yet. And then I feel bad, like I did something wrong. Am I not reading to him enough? We talk to him constantly and engage him and play with him. Why does our friend’s daughter who’s the same age say so many words, and our boy doesn’t say any words at all?

I can look at it logically and say, “All kids are different. Duh. Stop being a worrying asshole.” But the part of me that loves to beat myself up about everything says, “Faulty parenting.” I hate that part of me. I wish she would shut the hell up. I wish she only babbled.

I’m sure The Boy will be talking any minute now, and then I will be begging him to shut up. So here’s the part where you guys tell me your stories of late talkers to make me feel better. Go!


Author: The Sonia Show

I'm a writer/podcaster/mother/goober in San Francisco who likes to drink beer, shop, laugh and make other people laugh, watch old movies, feed my unhealthy obsession with pop culture, kick breast cancer's ass, go on adventures with my mighty, mighty good man David and my awesome autistic son, Calvin, wear orange and root for the San Francisco Giants, participate in general jackass-ery, talk about TV, eavesdrop on strangers' conversations, make nerdy “Star Wars” and “Simpsons” references, and post personal things about myself on the web for all to read, which makes me some sort of literary exhibitionist.

19 thoughts on “Late talker

  1. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a little jealous of people with those kids that walk at 10 months and climb on everything and take off on their tricycles at 18 months and generally show major physical skills and mastery early on. Because D, while certainly a talker, has always been slow and awkward with that stuff, and I worry about whether that will be an issue for him down the road, if kids will tease him for not being athletic, etc. He just seems to figure all that physical stuff out a little later than other kids.
    Which is to say, I get the worry, even if it’s in a different area.
    I have also heard that kids who are raised bilingual will take longer to start speaking, etc. But that ultimately they catch up and in the end it usually benefits them. Given that he’s testing out Spanish words on you, it seems like a reasonable theory for now. I think you’ve got the right attitude. =)

  2. Man, this parenting business is a hard one, huh? I’m only 7 months into it and still constantly find myself comparing my baby to other babies. All this despite the fact she’s perpetually happy and laughing and seems generally delighted to be here. Still, she never rolled over! How come that baby 2 months younger is rolling over? She doesn’t respond to her name every time! Deaf? Autism? Argh! Add to this the fact that I’m the one at home with her every day and you get a vast wormhole of ‘what am I doing wrong?’ With a side of guilt for every episode of Scandal I’ve watched during the day instead of doing more stimulating stuff. In reality, they really are all their own little people who do things at their own pace and in their own time, and as long as you make them feel loved and secure, you’re doing the best you can, right? So I don’t have any huge comforting story, but I can commiserate, and I’m sure Calvin will be talking up a storm by the time you’re done reading the comments on this post (because that’s Murphy’s law right there, and Murphy’s an asshole who loves to prove you wrong).

    • HA! I watched “The Walking Dead” when I was home with Calvin. No wonder he doesn’t talk.

      It’s hard not to compare, even when I know I shouldn’t.

      He is a very happy kid. Also, what he lacks in verbal skills he makes up in coordination — running, climbing, stacking things, crazy good at balancing on things and people.

  3. I’d think spending time with a Spanish speaking nanny would result in a child being bilingual, not in a language delay! Does he seem to understand the things YOU say? Sometimes kids go forever seeming like they can’t talk, but once they do learn to talk, it is like someone turned on a faucet… because they’ve been understanding and thinking in words the whole time, but just couldn’t physically produce the words yet. But if you’re worried, letting him be evaluated by a speech therapist would be a good idea. At best, it will reassure you that he is developing fine. At worst, he will get some services to jump start his speech skills so that he can catch up.

    • He understands everything we say in English and Spanish. He just doesn’t say words yet, all babbling, all the time. After the hearing test I’ll go the speech therapy route. One thing at a time. 🙂

  4. Sonia, I’m a friend of David’s. I met him through our good friend Kindred and I am the other half of Rob Wilson’s life! I have a thought I want to share with you about late talkers. I was one of them. And I see a possible similarity. When I was a child I was hearing Polish a lot, but out in the world English. I have a vague recollection of it being confusing to me and it made me shy in the English speaking world and I wasn’t really sure what people were saying. I know people say, oh kids can know more than one language and I say, yes, probably, but maybe not best when you’re learning to speak for the first time. I think if Calvin is hearing Spanish all day and then English with you he may be getting confused and then doesn’t connect with the English and just babbles. Have you asked the nanny how much he talks during the day? May be a sign of what’s happening. Does your nanny speak English? If she does I might want to insist on her speaking english to him until he gets his bearings. I remember not really speaking very well until I was four, but I have had a career as a writer, have had lots of articles in print, and owned my own PR firm. I’m now acting, so I think I turned out all right. 🙂

    • Hi Julian! Thank you for even reading my silly, little blog and taking the time to comment. I appreciate you sharing you story.

      Calvin actually talks A LOT, and I think he thinks we understand him, but it’s all jibberish. He might be confused. I certainly think that’s a possibility here, which is why the doctor suggested that Calvin might benefit from moving into preschool now.

  5. My son is also a “late-talker”, and a few months older than Calvin. I go through the same thing when we go to the park, and all the other kids are able to talk and ask for things, he has a friend that’s 3 months younger and says please and thank you, and I very much understand that jealousy? Feeling of anxiousness?

    Pretty sure Patrick thinks we should understand him too, and the unfortunate thing is that for awhile, I would act like I did, which I’m sure encouraged him to think “I already know how to talk, why should I use these ‘words’ they want me to use?”

    I disagree with the multiple language is bad thing, all words are good, and learning spanish early means it’s easier for him to learn it later. I wish I had had that with French growing up in Montreal.

    Ultimately, watching him perched on the table, flipping through the book, he’s fine. He just wants to be better at motor skills than talking, and it’s all going to balance out and you’ll be dreaming of the days when he didn’t talk and ask questions and yell “NOOOOOO” at the top of his lungs.

    • That is so interesting, Alan! We did the same thing. We pretended like we understood him, and I’ve wondered if that was a smart move.

      I think I’m just impatient. I want to talk to Calvin. To me, he is the most interesting man in the world, and I’m dying to know what he is thinking about.

      I didn’t mean to suggested that the dual languages are a bad thing. I think it’s awesome that Calvin understands English and Spanish. And some folks have pointed out that – with two languages – speaking can be slow at first, but he benefits in the long run, which makes sense to me. We will definitely continue with the Spanish, but most likely a full-on immersion program.

      We should get our boys in the same room some time, Alan, and our boys could not talk to each other. Ha ha!

  6. Hi! I feel a bit weird commenting because we don’t know each other (I just found your blog doing a Paris Hilton search of all things and I love it!) Anyway, my son is 3 1/2 and he was a late talker too. He wasn’t saying much at 2 either. He could point out all the shapes and colors and numbers and letters you wanted, but he couldn’t speak. He was able to communicate other ways. Then he turned 3 last February. It’s like something just clicked and he gradually started speaking clearer and putting words together to make sentences. Now I can’t get him to stop talking!! It took a lot of repetition and slowly enunciating sounds, but he got it. He’s still not exactly where other kids are, but he’s amazing to me. Good luck!

    • Thank you for sharing that. I feel like he is REALLY close to talking. He is babbling nonstop all day long, and if you ask to point things out, he does. He’s so close! It won’t be long before I write a post about how I want some peace and quiet. HA!

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