I recently heard from some twin parents worried about the speech of their 18 month old twins. What should you do when your twins aren’t talking yet? Should you worry? Is it natural? Here’s what to consider:
Key Speech Milestones
As your children grow, look for key speech development milestones.
These vary by age but will show steady progress in their ability to understand and attempt communicating with you and each other.
When they are less than a year old, your twins will likely be babbling but eventually move on to putting a series of sounds together. You’ll hear commonly used words (or sounds that represent them) from your twins asking for a bottle, binkey, blankie, etc.
When Your Twins Should Start Talking
By 18 months, your twins should be able to say around twenty words. These will be simple words like mama and dadda.
Your children will use various sounds and rhythms to “talk” as they play and interact with others.
Some of the vocabulary at this age may be only understood within the walls of your own home as you are in tune with your children’s speech.
Do twins talk later than singletons? Not necessarily. Just because they are twins doesn’t mean there is always a speech delay in twins.
Why Are They Delayed
Since twins tend to be born early, this can lead to several developmental delays including speech delays.
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Twins’ speech delays could be due to the extra time needed for mental development or physical development needed for speech.
For example, our girls were tongue tied which made it difficult to breastfeed as newborns. They each had a simple medical procedure called a lingual frenotomy that clipped the tissue that was holding down their tongues. While being tongue-tied can cause speech issues, that is not always the case.
How to Encourage Speech
There are several ways to help your toddlers talk more.
How to get twins to talk:
- Reading together
- Describe what you are doing
- Point out and name new things
- Ask them questions and wait for an answer
- Confirm when they say something correctly
- Focus on what they are trying to say and not mistakes early on
When your twins are very young, it can be frustrating to understand what they need. They can’t necessarily talk to you and explain what they need and often their babbling isn’t sensible.
What can you do?
The answer is baby signs. We used the “Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk” book to teach our kids basic sign language.
The two signs that worked wonders for us were the “more” and “all done” signs. These helped eliminate a lot of battles at feeding times well before our children could speak properly.
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Will both twins be the same?
Even identical twins will sound different. Their physical development will vary and their speech will likewise be different.
However, as your twins spend a lot of time together they may share speech habits they learn from one another. These habits include how words are pronounced or even what things are called. If you have a more vocal twin whom the sibling copies, focus on getting the speech right with one and the other will follow.
When to Be Concerned
So how do you know if there is really a problem or not?
If you keep asking yourself when do twins start talking? The answer is when they are ready.
Look for these warning signs and talk with your doctor if your child:
- doesn’t even use gestures to communicate by 12 months
- will use physical gestures instead of verbal methods by 18 months old
- can not follow simple spoken commands or requests
If there is a physical issue or hearing problem, your doctor can help. Otherwise, you can get a referral to a speech therapist to help your twins get back on track with their speech development.
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13 thoughts on “Twins Aren’t Talking Yet? Here’s what to do…”
Hello, my name is Kris, I am 42 yrs old and a father to 5 children, 2 of which are fraternal 18 month old twins. (Boy and girl.) your tips have helped me out many times and I enjoy reading your emails etc. I don’t normally listen to your podcasts but I do read every email that is sent. My twins are an absolute riot!!! I was so nervous when they were first born but now I feel like a complete pro. Just want to throw it out there , if I can do it, ANYONE can do it and it’s nowhere as scary as you may think. Keep up the good work and may your family thrive in this scary world.
@Kris – thanks for sharing your experience! I’m glad to hear I’ve been able to help in a small way. All the best to you.
20 words by 18 months? That’s false and unreasonable.
@Sally – don’t expect your kids to speak perfectly at that age. Like I mention above, “Some of the vocabulary at this age may be only understood within the walls of your own home” I’m sure your kids have sounds (aka words) for at least 20 things. As I mention, talk to your pediatrician about your twins’ progress.
Utter rubbish. 20 words by 18 months? This is NOT based on ANY research at all. In fact, by 18 months some toddlers will not have words yet – there is a spectrum to development. Look at ANY highly rated academic or public facing publication on the matter – 10-18 months for talking is a ‘normalised’ frame for starting to develop language. I would like you to state here the peer reviewed material you consulted that lists 20 words by 18 months as ‘normal’.
No one should listen to this fabrication – clearly this is scaremongering tactics for force book sales. Please consult any other reputable text …hell, Google search! Actually, do what he advises and call you GP as they’ll set you straight.
20 words by 18 months. Laughable.
And for anyone reading – being a father to twins does not make this man an expert. See your doctor – this man has no idea what he is talking about.
I came to see what others say because our twins pediatrician said they should be saying 20-25 words. They are 19 months old now……what he has said here seems to mimic what their pediatrician told us…….
I also thought that 20 words seemed a bit high…..
I have fraternal twin boys and I just stopped and counted the words they’re using sometimes and reached about 15 to 20; included words they just repeated back to me once or twice. They’re also tri-lingual. So twins, boys, trilingual – all things that should cause speech delays, but they seem to be on track. I think it really does depend on the child. A neurologist for one of my boys also said that they should be using around 20 words at this age, so it’s not like this writer pulled the info out of thin air.
As others note, approximately 20 words is a fairly standard milestone for 18 months. Some babies may have more words, some may have less.
The new CDC developmental milestone guidelines issued in late February 2022 have been revised to provide benchmarks that typically 75% of children meet by that age. (The old benchmarks were for milestones that typically 50% of children meet by that age.) The purpose of this change was to provide clear guidelines for when early intervention may be warranted. From 12-17 months, they expect 75% of children to have a minimum of 5 words. If the child has less than 5 words, early intervention may be warranted.
If you think this Joe’s post is off, feel free to provide your own reputable sources. But he always makes clear he isn’t a medical expert and that you should consult your child’s pediatrician. And, everything is this post seems reasonably in line with other sources, especially considering this was written before the CDC issued their new benchmarks.
I have worked with children for 30 years. I find 20 on the high end. I have had about 10 percent be over 20. I would say 10 to 15 words to be normal.
Bubba for brother
Sissy for sister
Woof for dog
__uck tr is a hard sound it come out as an f
Milk, or drink
Thanks for sharing great examples!
Not realy.My daughter was talking at 10months and my son was taliking at 11months.All children differ.My nefews are three and not saying a word.So every one develops differdnt.This man writes what he has done to help his children and tries to help people its really not nice what you wrote to him.Hes trying to give advice.
So, my twins are identical (shared a placenta), they were born at exactly 34 weeks gestation due to a condition called TAPS. They met all other milestones on time, but they are now 19 months old and do NOT say 20 words (dad and I sat and actually made a list and only came up with 9 for one of them and 8 for the other), I’ve asked pediatrician and he just says “they were early, they will learn. Give them time!”
They do understand us though! We can tell them to pick up their bottle or cup and they will, they will even take their dirty diapers to the trash and throw them away and return clapping their hands.
My question is, is there any way other than reading to them (we already do this!), and repeating? I feel like they understand us and follow directions as well as 19 month olds should, so often when they want an object or toy they point in its direction and kind of moan/grunt and then often times we get it for them. Should we not do this?
Also, how long do you think we should give them to “catch up” before seeking intervention?
Hi there, my name is Debbie
I am mother of three, I have a set of twins, identical who will be turning 4years in June 2022. They know their shapes, colours, alphabets, numbers, Rhymes , most of the pre-school stuff and they sing along okay/ do their colouring too. My biggest concern and worry is that, they don’t communicate back when you talk to them though they understand. if they want something, they hold your hand and pull you to where the exact item is for you to pick it for them.
They are already in preschool, I had a report from the school today that, the teacher had to call of them several times before he responded to his name.
I am very worried because they would starting reception this September 2022. Can you please advise.