I have a two year old son. Well, at least he will be two in the next few days. He doesn't talk much. I mean, he babbles a lot, but doesn't say much in actual words. He doesn't really form sentences and has a lot of made-up words that mean something to him and absolutely nothing to me. I can coax words out of him, but he doesn't voluntarily talk. I haven't been too concerned. Sure, other children his age or younger are speaking like little adults, my kid is just moving at his own pace.
I would probably be more concerned if I felt like he wasn't understanding things, but the fact is he understands a lot. I can say, "Son, pick up your toys and put them in your toy box." And he does it. When I say it's bedtime, he runs into his bedroom, grabs his stuffed football and climbs in to bed. He's also very active and figures things out quickly, maybe a little too quickly.
Still, the fact remains that he doesn't speak, and it is frustrating. I can't figure out what he wants sometimes which leads to tears and tantrums. People who are around him less really can't figure out what he wants since they don't pick up on his physical cues as much as I do.
Should I learn sign language? I always thought sign language was a bit overrated and just a new parenting fad. Then my husband's aunt came to visit. She works in early childhood development specifically with deaf children. Naturally she started signing with my son. In a matter of a couple of hours he had learned at least 10 new words and was speaking in short sentences. I'm not talking about he learned the signs for the words - I mean he was literally saying new words. I couldn't believe it. My husband and I sat down and started talking with her. What we found out completely blew us away. Studies are coming out showing that kids need more than one input to learn something. They use their senses to learn (smell, sight, taste, etc). Our son was hearing the words we spoke, watching the way our lips moved, and needed the motor input that sign language brings for his brain to connect everything together. That motor input was the key.
Basically, even though he is not autistic, he learns in much the same way an autistic child learns. I'm not a professional, but the way I understand it is it's like baking cookies. You have all the ingredients sitting on the counter. Separately they don't do anything, but when you combine them together (auditory, visual, and motor skills) they make cookies (or in our case, words).
Needless to say I went to the library and checked out all the toddler signing books and DVDs I could find. As my husband commented, "it's like we've unlocked our child."