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.
Why Are They Delayed
Since twins tend to be born early, this can lead to several developmental delays including speech delays.
These 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.
(NOTE: Still expecting? Get weekly updates on your twin pregnancy here.)
How to Encourage Speech
There are several ways to help your toddlers talk more.
Some of my favorites:
- 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.
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.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
When to Be Concerned
So how do you know if there is really a problem or not?
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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