My Child Doesn't Talk But Understands Everything

Before being alarmed because your child doesn't talk, you need to pay attention to certain signs regarding their language development.
My Child Doesn't Talk But Understands Everything

Last update: 27 September, 2021

Each child has their own pace of maturation and learning. This is why one walks or talks earlier than another, but usually, both end up doing so within the expected time. However, when the onset of a developmental milestone is delayed, parental anxiety and concern surface. One of the clearest examples is language development. When your child doesn’t talk as soon as you expected, your entire environment sets off alarms. And, as if this weren’t enough, the bombardment of information that you find on the internet takes you further and further away from the answer to your main question: Should I worry about this?

Now, this question must be approached from a preventative standpoint. That is, it’s important to address it as soon as possible and not overworry. For this reason, we’ve prepared this article to help you solve your doubts.

Your son doesn’t talk but understands everything

As we discussed earlier, although each child matures at their own pace, the different developmental guidelines or milestones have an age of completion that’s been determined through scientific studies.

Children are constantly maturing and the most important thing is to see that they advance in their achievements as time goes by. Both in the area of language and communication, as well as other issues related to their development.

Although any situation out of the ordinary requires confirmation by a competent professional, these are some aspects that you should take into account about your child’s speech development.

The first year of life: From babbling to first words

A baby babbling.

During the first year of life, the typical form of oral communication is babbling. This consists of simple sounds, which gradually become more complex until they reach the repeated syllables, such as “ma-ma-ma”.

By 12 months of age, the child usually verbalizes a single word, although they may not pronounce it perfectly.

The most important thing about this stage is that the little one tends to imitate the sounds that their parents make when they speak.

The second year of life: From words to phrases

Between 12 and 15 months, the baby should be able to understand simple instructions. For example, bring us your favorite toy. But this doesn’t mean that they’re capable of expressing a similar idea.

Some of the signs in a child that may serve as an alarm at this stage are the following:

  • They’re not startled or surprised by nearby noises, just as if they didn’t hear them.
  • The child doesn’t emit vocalizations, not even to repeat what adults say.
  • They never respond to their name when called.
  • They have no intention of communicating with their caregivers, neither to ask for something nor to share an emotion with them.

You may also be interested in: Baby Sign Language: Non-Verbal Communication

Because he doesn’t speak

The reasons why a child doesn’t speak can vary greatly and are sometimes much more complex than we believe. Next, we’ll highlight the most relevant:

  • Changes in the mouth or palate
  • Auditory disorders
  • Delays in the acquisition of maturational patterns (including language)
  • Language development disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Grief, family conflicts, or other stressful situations (separations, moves, the birth of a sibling, the death of a loved one)

When faced with a child who doesn’t speak when they should, it’s important to consult a pediatrician or family doctor, in order to resolve any doubts. In the case in which the suspicions of the parents are correct, the professional will request the evaluation that they consider necessary in a timely manner.

Recommendations for monitoring your child’s speech development

During the first years of life, the presence of parents and a supportive environment are key factors for development and learning. So, it’s important to spend time with children and promote age-appropriate play.

Some of the positive habits to stimulate the language of children are the following:

  • Talk to them: It’s important to teach them what different objects are called so that they incorporate them into their language. Do it clearly and slowly so that they can understand and internalize vocabulary.
  • Sharing experiences: Experiences constitute an invitation to children to express themselves and also to dialogue between two people.
  • Using music and reading stories: This helps to learn spoken and written language. It’s good to take advantage of changes in the tone of voice depending on the situation, as in storytelling.
  • Perform physical stimulation exercises: For example, blowing to accompany the mobility of the mouth or practicing certain words so that they learn to place the tongue on the palate.
Parents reading a book to their toddler.

Another important point is to observe parental behavior, as sometimes children don’t speak because they don’t have the opportunity to do so. Many parents get used to interpreting their children’s signals and anticipating their requests. This inhibits the child, as expressing themself is unnecessary.

There are also cases where every time the child speaks, they’re corrected. As a result, many children choose to remain silent or simply point. When this happens, you need to change the way you address it. For example, instead of saying “it’s not paper, it’s a pencil”, it’s better to say “Oh, you want the pencil?”.

If your child still doesn’t speak…

When it comes to a child who doesn’t speak, the outlook may seem daunting. The most important thing is to consult with a specialist in a timely manner and monitor your child’s learning process.

Being respectful of each child’s own time also implies being attentive or sensitive to their needs. With this in mind, complying with routine medical checks is a key factor in monitoring your little one’s growth and maturation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.