Can a 1 year old be late on communication skills ? How to help ?

by Fanny
(Marseille, France)

My son is 13 months old and from a bilingual home (english and french in a french speaking country). At his age, he doesn't seem very capable (or motivated ?) with communication.

He doesn't say a word, except maybe mama and papa but wether those are used with purpose is still unclear.
He doesn't point. He doesn't use much gestures to communicate : he raises his arms to be picked up, but that's it, no nodding, no waving bye bye, no blowing kisses.

He imitates some mimics : clapping hands, holding a phone to his ear, clicking his tongue in response to us doing it, rapsberries. He plays peek-a-boo and find it hilarious. He doesn't imitate gestures in sing-alongs. Both us at home and educators at daycare use some sign language and, albeit he seems to understand some of them, he doesn't use any.

All that he effectively does, he has been doing for months now, and doesn't seem like he's been going through leaps and bounds for quite a while.

What maybe bother me the most is that I am unsure of his understanding as well.

Most of the time, we have to be pretty insistent for him to answer to his name. If I gesture toward him to give me something while also giving him a verbal command (Please give me the spoon) he will do it (unless he just wants to be a butthead of course) but if I just say it without opening my palm, he won't. He loves being read to and will point at images, presumably for me to name them, but won't repeat the words. If I ask him to point at a familiar image in a book such as a cat or a bottle he won't do it. If I ask him to bring me a toy when putting everything out, he won't do it.

In spite of those things that have kept on bugging me, my son is a very communicative baby at his own level. He coos and babbles a lot (but no sentence-length "gibberish"), loves to laugh and interact, "acts up" to draw our attention upon himself or get some laughs out of us. He engages in social play with other children. He is pretty ourgoing. "Because" of this and the bilingual environment, our paediatrician doesn't see reasons for concern. He is "taking his time". I'd be inclined to trust her judgment if she wasn't also a bit dismissive of my questions.

Going out of the practice, all I know is to wait it out, but I know nothing I could actually do in order to help my son out.

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

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