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Does He Have a Speech Problem?

Q. My 16-month-old doesn't know as many words as his older sister did when she was his age. I've heard that boys lag behind girls in speech development, though, so does that mean I don't need to worry?


A. Boys do often develop speech later than girls, but there's usually only about a one- to two-month lag. At 16 months, the average number of words boys use is about 30, while girls tend to use around 50. That means your son will most likely catch up with his sister pretty soon. (Of course, keep in mind that while comparing him with an older sibling can be helpful sometimes, he'll develop language and other abilities at his own pace.)

If he lags behind the standard for boys his age, though, talk to your pediatrician, who may refer you to a speech pathologist. Language delays can be a sign of a hearing problem, a learning disability, or autism. Ultimately, though, about half of children whose vocabulary lags are just late bloomers.

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