Is my child a Late Talker?

September 1, 2018

How do you know if your child is a late talker?

A late talker refers to a toddler (18-30 months) who has a good understanding of language and meets other development milestones i.e., play skills, social skills, motor skills, but has a limited vocabulary expected for his/her age. It has been found that approximately 13% of 2 year olds are late talkers.

It is expected that children reach these milestones:

At 18 months

Most Children at 18 months old  have at least 20 words, including different types of words, including:

nouns: ball, car, bird,

actions: jump, go, fall

locations: up, down, there

describing words: more, dirty, big

social words: bye!, hello

At 24 months

Most Children have at least 100 words and put 2 words together to start making little sentences, such as: my teddy, and  ball gone, where daddy?

At 30 months

Children should be able to use 3-4 word phrases, such as: there mamma sock, look big truck, dog sleeping on bed

Children are starting to use some grammatical structures such as plurals (cats, dogs) pronouns (I, me, and you) and they are also generally asking lots (!) of questions (what, where, why).

Should I ‘wait and see’?

We often get asked if it the child is too young to bring in or should the parents wait and see. We generally see children from 18 months where there are cause for concern about a language delay. We also see younger children where there may be developmental, medical or other specific concerns. Our rule of thumb is if there is parental concern or concern by another health professional, then act on this and seek further advice by taking your child to a speech pathologist for assessment.

While some children grow out of their delay and catch up with their peers without additional support, many don’t, and it can be difficult to determine who will catch up and those who will not catch up without support.

Bear in mind that those children developing age-appropriate language skills are practicing their higher-level skills daily, which then  aids further in their ongoing development. Children who are not reaching the expected milestones are not experiencing the same communication opportunities which adds to their risk of not keeping up or catching up. That is why it is recommended to seek advice and appropriate support sooner rather than later.

There are many easy to implement strategies that can significantly help a toddler who is slower to start to speak.

Early intervention gives the best possible outcomes

If you think your child could be a late talker, it is recommended for your child to be assessed by a  Speech Pathologist  as soon as possible. Speech pathologists are specialists in assessing and diagnosing communication difficulties and there are many benefits of bringing in a child in as soon as there are parental concerns:

  • Either your concerns will be alleviated, or you can get started straight away on a plan of action
  • You will be supported in helping your child develop their communication skills (parents are their children’s first and best teachers so you will be actively involved in your child’s therapy)
  • Intervention with little ones is play based and fun
  • Suitable strategies to facilitate communication can be are easily implemented within routine family activities
  • Referrals can be made on to appropriate health professionals for further investigation if needed (paediatrician occupational therapist, Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon, audiologist, psychologist)
  • Early referral and intervention can prevent ongoing difficulties
  • Early diagnosis of any underlying (medical or developmental) difficulties means that the most appropriate support can be provided from an early age.

How can I help my child’s language development?

  1. Talk with your child about things that are happening around you at the time.
  2. Talk with your child at his/her level and face to face.
  3. Slow down while you’re talking to your child and leave pauses, giving your child opportunities to respond. A late talker might find it overwhelming if you speak really quickly with him.
  4. Talk in full sentences – but keep your sentences short picking out the key things to focus on
  5. If you have  concerns regarding your child’s hearing, it is recommended that you visit an have your child’s hearing tested.
  6. If you have any concerns about your child’s communication skills seek professional advice sooner rather than later.

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References: Lauren Lowry The Hanen Centre, 2012; Owens, 2011

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