I was just wondering what is "normal" speech for a 2.5 year old boy. My son does say short sentences, but it's not what I would consider spontaneous conversation. He will say "I want to go outside" or "I want to carry it", but most of his sentences are sentences he's heard us say before like "How was your day?" and "I love you". The other day, after rolling his truck down the stairs, he did come tell me "truck go downstairs". If we point to daddy and say "who is this", my son will respond "daddy", but if we point to daddy and say "what is his name", my son will repeat the question. He is use to me asking him about his day at school, so every day when I see him after work, he'll say "how was your day?" and "did you play outside" rather than telling me about his day and that he played outside. If we are disciplining him and talking to him in a stern voice, he will avert his eyes and repeat what we are saying while we are saying it. When he's not being disciplined, though, he has no problem with eye contact and he doesn't usually repeat our sentences when we talk to him. He will answer our questions if the answer is no and he will respond to our questions about shapes, colors, numbers, and letters, but for most other questions, he just repeats the question. I'm concerned that his repetition of what we are saying at times and the fact that he doesn't engage in spontaneous conversation about his day at school, etc, might mean there is a developmental problem. Do most kids his age repeat what adults say?
At 2.5 years children are just starting to develop their 'social' side, and if there are any problems then it is from this age that parents usually start to become worried as they see that certain language/social skills are not developing. I do recognise your concerns and the fact that he doesn't 'chat' for the enjoyment of talking, but rather seems to use language to get his needs met.
Repeating words and sentences is part of normal development up a point and up to a certain age. I would recommend you google the word 'echolalia and autism' and see if any of those explanations sound familar to you. My son would also repeat back some questions I asked him, but not alot and not all the time. Sometimes if I asked him a question I would get an answer totally unrelated to the question. He could answer questions correctly, but the more complicated the question the more he was unable to answer correctly.
I think that you should go and see your doctor and tell him of your concerns as soon your child will be in pre-school and needs a certain level of understanding of language to be able to follow instructions and to be able to make himself understood. Ask that he is assessed by a Speech and Language Therapist who has knowledge of the language and communication problems in autism. Simply from how the language disorder, if any, is presenting they should be able to tell you whether it is a possible autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis you could get. Then it usually takes other professionals such as Clinical Paediatrician, Clinical Psychologist etc to observe your son over a number of occasions for them to decide if they fit the criteria for the diagnosis.
It is very scary to be thinking of a possible diagnosis of autism, but the fact is that you have to jump in at some point for professionals to assess your child to see if that is the case or not. As these things take a long time ie. a referal could take months for Speech/Language. Then any further referrals/recommendations they make could be another 6 month wait with observations taking a further 6-12 months, which means your son could be looking at a diagnosis, if that is relevant, just before he starts full time school. From that point of view you will see that it is essential to start getting the ball rolling so that any decision about appropriate schools is made before he starts. As he grows and develops it may be that a mainstream school with supports would be okay. Or he may need a mixed school with mainstreamers and other children with autism. It doesn't sound like he is severe, so a special school is probably not relevant.
You can also google for the diagnostic criteria under DSM IV for autism (I think the code is 299). That will show you the kind of behaviours the professionals will be looking for. I am not sure if they use different criteria for younger children. There is something called the CHAT questionnaire that parents are sometimes asked to complete in the UK as it has alot of questions that are red flags regarding autism spectrum disorders.
I'm sorry if this post makes you more concerned. But if you feel something isn't right or is maybe delayed then you need to get the ball rolling asap.
I also want to ask you if he has very bad tantrums or get very upset apparently for no reason?
Does he have any sensory issues like an aversion to having his hair washing/brushed or nails cut or socks and shoes. Does he have to have tags cut out of cloths. Does he cover his ears at loud unpredictable noises. Is his balance and co-ordination okay. Does he climb the stairs and did he crawl as a baby.
He does have tantrums, but I don't know that I would consider it to be more in frequency or severity than other 2 year old tantrums, though I haven't been around many other two year olds. He has a quick temper, but if he does get upset, there is always a reason (his toy is tangled up or his car won't roll correctly or we're making him sit on the potty and he doesn't want to). We've just always considered him to be very independent, but not what I would consider aloof (he's very affectionate and seems to bond with people easily -- even strangers sometimes). He knows what he wants and if things don't work out that way, he gets upset. It's not over every little thing, though. We can usually "talk him down" when he does get upset. If he gets upset and throws a toy that is not "working" properly, we'll correct him and tell him to say "help please" and he does. Sometimes he'll say "help please" without getting mad at the toy at all. He doesn't seem to have any sensory problems. He lets us wash his hair, brush his teeth and cut his nails. If he doesn't want to go "bye-bye" though, he'll get upset when we try to put his shoes and socks on, but again, it's not every time -- just when he doesn't want to leave. He does HATE taking medicine, so that is always a struggle. He doesn't mind tags in clothes and he doesn't cover his ears. His balance and co-ordination are great. He does climb the stairs and he did crawl as a baby. I read that echolalia occurs in normally developing children as well and peaks at 30 months (which is where he is now), so I'm hoping that is what I am seeing. We are having him evaluated by a speech therapist next week and we have an appointment with a neurologist at Texas Children's in August. I did read the questionnaire at the autismspeaks.org website that is used in diagnosing, but I have trouble determining what is mild vs. moderate and what is normal for a 2 year old. For example, one red flag is them ignoring you calling their name. Sometimes he does ignore me, but I figured it was because he is 2. I'll look for that CHAT questionnaire too. Maybe that will answer some questions.
I think you're doing all the right things. It may just be a language delay, or even nothing at all. From what you originally posted ie. communicates to get needs met not to chat, repeats some things said to him, sometimes appears deaf if you call his name. These are red flags, but as you say he is just at that point when that kind of behaviour should be declining and he should be becoming more talkative/social etc.
I just wanted to add that sensory differences can fluctuate day by day and throughout the day, so you won't get the same response to the same incident, that is what makes alot of parents think their child doesn't have a sensory problem when infact they do. Sometimes my son covers his ears at loud noises, if I get the vaccum cleaner out my son and the cat run out the room, at other times he will deliberately seek out loud noises and at school he has drum lessons!
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