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Why is my 13-month-old not talking just babbling? (Answer from an SLP)

A 13 month old child licking icecream with a good smile on his face

As a speech therapist, I often encounter concerned parents who wonder why their 13-month-old child is not yet talking and seems to be stuck in the world of babbling. It's important to understand that speech and language development is a gradual process, and every child progresses at their own pace. In this blog, I will delve into the speech and language milestones you can expect at 13 months old and provide valuable tips for parents to help their child develop speech.

Speech and Language Milestones at 13 Months

1. Babbling is Normal

At 13 months old, it's completely normal for your child to engage in babbling, which includes making repetitive sounds like "ba-ba" or "ma-ma." This babbling is a crucial step in language development. It's their way of experimenting with sounds and getting ready to form words.

2. Limited Vocabulary

Most 13-month-olds will have a limited vocabulary, often consisting of just a few simple words like "mama," "dada," or "bye-bye."

3. Gestures and Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication plays a vital role in language development. At this age, your child may use gestures like pointing, waving, or nodding to express themselves. They may lift their hands to express they want to be picked up or they may shake their head if they don't want something.

4. Responding to Name

By 13 months, your child should be responding to their name.

5. Understanding Simple Instructions

Your child should be starting to understand simple instructions, such as "come here" or "give me the toy."

Causes of speech delay in children:

  1. Hearing loss- if a child doesn't hear, how would they develop speech. Hence your doctor would always refer the child for hearing assessment if they present with speech delay.

  2. Neurological Disorders such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder can cause speech delays. The child often struggles with expressive and receptive language.

  3. Speech and Language Developmental Disorders difficulty producing sounds and forming words

  4. Intellectual disability- a child with intellectual disabilities often faces difficulty in understanding language and processing information

  5. Lack of stimulation

  6. Speech sound disorders.

  7. Cognitive delay.

Tips for Parents to Encourage Speech Development

Here are some tips to help your child along their speech development journey:

1. Engage in Conversations: Talk to your child regularly, even if they are just babbling. Respond to their sounds and encourage back-and-forth "conversations." This helps them understand the two-way communication.

2. Read Aloud: Reading to your child is one of the most effective ways to promote language development. Choose age-appropriate books with colorful pictures and simple text. Point to and name objects in the pictures. It helps them understand correct pronunciation of words.

3. Expand on Babbling: When your child babbles, respond as if they are saying something meaningful. For example, if they say "ba-ba," you can say, "Yes, that's your bottle, you want your bottle?" This reinforces their attempts at communication.

4. Use Gestures: Incorporate gestures into your communication. This helps your child understand the connection between words and actions.

5. Limit Screen Time: Excessive screen time can hinder speech development. Ensure your child has plenty of opportunities for face-to-face interactions and playtime with toys that encourage communication.

6. Encourage Playdates: Interaction with other kids is beneficial for speech development as it will expose your child to different speech patterns and social interactions.

7. Be Patient: It's important to be patient, celebrate their efforts, no matter how small, and provide a supportive environment.

Seek Professional Advice When Concerned, if you notice significant delays or regression in your child's speech and language development, don't hesitate to seek guidance from a pediatrician or a speech therapist. Early intervention can make a significant difference.

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

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Reference Links:

1. [American Speech-Language-Hearing Association - Speech and Language Development]

2. [CDC - Important Milestones: Your Child By One Year]



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