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My son barely say words/sentences when he is more than 21 months

Baby Development


“I’m worried about my son. I talk to him everyday but all he can say is ‘nana’ for banana and ‘dada’ for daddy. All the rest is random blabbers. Our family doctor even advised me that if he still can’t say anything in the coming weeks, we should get in touch with her for specialist advice. Can anyone help?”


Belinda B.

My son barely say words, he had 4 sounds (not even words) by 18 months. I had kept telling everyone (GP, health nurse etc) I was concerned but they kept saying as he was the youngest of 4, his older siblings were talking for him. I knew it wasn’t the case and there was something going on so at his 18 month check, I demanded we do something about it. We came away with a referral to speech therapy and for a hearing test. The hearing test came back with mild hearing loss, from otitis media as he had frequently had colds which developed into tonsillitis, chest infections, bronchitis etc and also had very thick ear wax. We were then referred to an ENT as well and at 23months he had his tonsils and adenoids removed.

We also signed permission for grommets to be inserted if needed but the ENT didn’t think they were necessary. Meanwhile we had been seeing the speechie quite regularly but not making much progress. After a year we changed speechies, to one who had more experience, the first one was just out of Uni, which I usually don’t have a problem with, we all have to start somewhere, however it was the experience of the 2nd speechie that realised my son had dyspraxia or childhood ataxia of speech where his brain and muscles dont communicate well, in being able to produce the sounds and words needed for speech.

We were warned that it would be a long journey of speech therapy and his prognosis was somewhere between never gaining functional speech to having a few sounds he may never be able to say. We then began introducing sign language with him, but being able to sign took the pressure of having to form he words, and he actually began developing sounds and words. Now at age 7 his speech is coming along nicely, he has an age appropriate vocabulary though he does have some trouble with some sounds, and also with being able to be understood by some people. He is also not comfortable talking to people he doesn’t know and often struggles answering direct questions. He didn’t talk to his Kindy teacher until about halfway through the year last year, this year in Year 1 he took till the beginning of second term to talk to his new teacher. In future years at school we may look into using text to talk apps etc to take the pressure off him having to speak, especially for oral presentations etc and his school is very supportive and open to this. I would definitely recommend seeking professional help particularly for a hearing assessment if not already done, and from a speech therapist.

Kate R.

I am a pediatric speech pathologist. I would suggest that you go to see a speech pathologist to discuss if assessment is needed, and to get some ideas to help your son to continue to develop his communication skills. There are a few options- Community Health offer a free service (there will be a waitlist), or you can go privately. If you go private, you could ask your GP if you are eligible for the 5 subsidized speech pathology sessions, or you can use private health if you are covered. I have also attached some basic developmental information for communication, from our national association. All the best.
You can find more useful information here.

Christine L.

do what’s called a “chronic disease management plan” (effectively just means that there is an issue that won’t resolve without therapy). It’s up to your GP to decide if you are eligible. They then write a referral to your SP. Medicare will then pay (last I checked) $52.95 of the session. Hope this helps!

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