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Why is my 15-month-old toddler not talking but babbling? [Ans. from an SLP]

A kid playing with a toy in a park

As your baby starts growing up, and you start coming in contact with more parents having toddlers of the age similar to yours, you must feel the urge to compare the milestones your toddler has achieved to the ones achieved by other toddlers of similar age groups. Some kids may start talking at a very early age, while some may not speak their first words by the age of 2 years. Therefore, before getting into the causes, treatment, and tips for helping your child develop speech I would like to talk a bit about the speech milestones a 15-month-old toddler is expected to achieve.

Speech and language milestones attained by a 15-month-old toddler.

Every child has their own pace of development, however, age milestones are meant to give us a general idea as to when and how a child should be able to communicate by a certain age. Milestones are set based on the average age at which 95% of children attain them.

  • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog.

  • Looks at a familiar object when you name it

  • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example, he gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.”

  • Points to ask for something or to get help

Causes of speech delay in 15-month-old toddler.

  1. Hearing Loss- it is well understood that, in order to learn something we need to observe someone doing the task. Hence if the child can't hear you, how will he develop speech? Therefore, a speech therapist always suggests a hearing assessment to rule out hearing loss in the child with a speech delay.

  2. Mental retardation- mental retardation accounts for about 50% cases of speech delay in children. In this case the child can present with global language delay, delayed hearing, and delayed use of gestures, based on the severity of mental retardation. Mental retardation can be due to genetic causes, intrauterine infection, hypoxia during fetal life, maternal medications, poisoning and several other causes.

  3. Developmental language delay/ maturation delay- it is due delayed neurological development required for speech. It is often observed in boy child's and there is significant family history of 'late-talkers'. The prognosis for such children is quite positive, as they often develop perfectly by the school going age.

  4. Psychosocial deprivation- the immediate environment around the child is very important for the development of speech. The child who is facing abuse or neglect often lags behind in development of speech.

  5. Autism - it is a neurological developmental disorder in which the child has difficulty in development in certain domains, i.e, social interaction, behavior, and learning.

  6. Oral motor issues- the child can face difficulty in moving the jaw, tongue, lips and teeth in a correct manner. Therefore, they might end up facing difficulties ranging from incorrect pronunciation to delayed speech development, observed in conditions like, dysarthria, childhood apraxia of speech, etc.

  7. Articulation disorder- these are a range of disorders that occur due to misplacement of tongue, leading r sound disorders/ rhotacism, s sound disorders/ lisp, tongue thrust, etc.

If your child isn't speaking anything by 15 months old it is about time to consult a specialist like a speech therapist to get them evaluated and to narrow down the cause of their delayed speech development.

Timely intervention with appropriate speech therapy is very important, as the sooner the intervention begins the sooner your toddler will make progress in speech. It is very important to remember that speech and language development occur hand in hand therefore it's important for one skill to develop before another can develop.

Tips for parents to help their 15-month-old toddler develop speech.

While speech therapy is important for a toddler to overcome speech delay, there are few tips I often recommend to parents to help their toddlers develop speech.

  • Infant-directed speech is the speech we use while talking to an infant or a toddler like speaking slowly, with more repetitions and a higher pitch. It can help the child develop joint attention skills, a larger vocabulary, and language development.

  • Play: playing and language have strong relation, playing helps your toddler understand how to correlate their actions with words. For instance, if they play with a toy shovel and dig they will understand what digging actually is, or when they use the word help they will understand that if they are in trouble using the word they will be able to communicate their need.

  • Read to them- you can read colorful story books with cartoons and rhymes to them. It helps them understand language, grammar and learn how to pronounce words. A child who reads one book a day will hear approximately 78,000 words in a year.

  • Incorporate learning in everyday scenarios, you can ask them to help you with basic chores, and explain to them what you are doing. You can also ask them what they want for meals via open ended question, as it gives them an opportunity to formulate sentences.

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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