What to do when your toddler is not responding to you when you talk to him?

If your toddler is not responding to you when you talk to him, you are confused. Try to ask yourself the following questions in order to understand where the breakdown is occurring.

For the sake of convenience, child referred to here is a boy. The same questions apply to girl children also.

Child is not responding when you talk to him

Is he / she able to hear?
Yes / No

He is able to hear, but is he listening?
Yes / No

He is able to hear and sometimes he appears to be listening, still he is not responding. Then is he able to understand what I am saying?
Yes / No

He understands what I am saying, but still he does not respond. Is it because what I am saying is not interesting for him? He responds when something interests him.
Yes / No

Depending on your answer to each of the questions, try to figure out the best way of approaching the child.

If you suspect that the child is not able to hear, then consult your doctor and have his hearing checked to confirm normal hearing, as this is vital for speech development.

If your child is able to hear, but does not appear to listen or pay attention, then go close to the child, call him by name, speak directly to the child. Go his level and talk to him in simple clear words. Wait and observe his response.

After you have done that and he is still not responding appears not to understand what you are saying, then you need to use simple actions and gestures to make him understand. Link action or gesture to your words. For example, when you call out to him and say ‘come here’ and the child does not respond, and then you hold out your arms and say ‘come here’. When you say, ‘bring shoe’ and child does not respond, you can point to the shoe or take him closer to the shoe and put it closer to the child and say ‘bring shoe’ and you may have to help him to wear shoes. Repeat this several times in context until the child is able to follow what you are saying.

When he is selective in responding, then may be what you are saying does not interest him. To get the child’s attention, start playing games with the child and get the child’s interest. For example, child is busy arranging blocks and is not interested in anything else, you can join him, help him play with blocks, or hand the blocks to him one by one and talk to him in simple words.