2 Yr Old Has Unusual Way of Saying O Sounds

by Karen

My 24 mo son has a very large vocabulary both in understanding and speaking. He will basically try to say just about anything, even if it is beyond his ability (for instance, too many long words in one sentence).

He speaks using short and long sentences, often more than one sentence at a time. He will also try to repeat fairly long sentences if you ask him (for instance, 5 or 6 word sentences, three or four sentences at a time when we say prayers at night).

All of these things are great and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that both I and his father work at home and spend a lot of time talking and reading to him.

The issue I am wondering about is this - For certain "o" sounds (i.e. "oo" and long "o", he will always use a "surrogate" sound for the whole word. It's hard to explain, but basically, he won't open his mouth to make the vowel sound and will say "nnn" in a tone that almost sounds like "moo" if you were to say it with your mouth shut and your tongue on the top of your mouth.

In fact, he started making this sound when he was barely saying any other words but "ma" and "da". He would say it for "moon" and a cow's "moo". Anyway, almost always, he will not even try to say the beginning or ending consonants of a word with these vowel sounds and the "nnn" word will be used in place of the whole word.

So, sometimes his speech is incredibly easy to understand and sometimes it is full of the "nnn" word and you have to guess from the context what he is saying.

I've tried to see if this is just normal or some sort of speech or processing disorder that he might need help with to over come. Since he is so young and has such a big vocabulary, I'm not too concerned. But, the information I see says they should be able to say all their vowels at his age, usually.

From my research, it seems like it could be labeled as some sort of articulation disorder, but I really don't know much about these things. Can that happen for a single set of sounds and no other? Is it merely a habit he will grow out of and can I help him?

He doesn't usually get frustrated, but sometimes it seems a shame that he can't jabber away more freely. That sound is harder to make than most words and causes him a short pause (although he is learning to say it without the pause lately!).

Sorry this is so long, but I've Googled this issue a hundred ways and it just doesn't seem like some common thing that others are experiencing. One side benefit, BTW, is that he has never said the favority toddler word "NO" (just shakes head saying "nnn"). But recently he has learned to use the word "not" creatively! :-)

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Jun 18, 2013
Unusual Speech
by: Janelle

Hi Karen,

On one hand, I would say that at age 2, it is extremely common to make speech sound errors, and a large vocabulary with longer sentences can make a child hard to understand until their speech development catches up to their advanced language development.

On the other hand, it is less typical for speech sound errors to occur on vowels--certainly not unheard of, just less common. And, substituting a whole word with a long sound ("nnnn" in your son's case) is not something that naturally occurs in the process of learning how to talk.

It is hard to make a complete decision without having met your son, but I would err on the side of caution & recommend that you have him evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist. If there is not one in your area, perhaps you can find one over Telepractice (similar to using Skype). Kids can outgrow many things, but it can be harder to outgrow atypical errors without help.

In the meantime, it would be very helpful for you to continue reading books to your son! That is a great bonding experience that also has very positive effects on speech, language, and literacy development.

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