Children develop at different paces. However, there are general milestones that most children reach by a certain age. One of these milestones is speech development. If you think your child is a late talker and needs help, the recommendation for speech therapy is not something that you should hesitate about!
In this article we will discuss:
It’s one of the most wonderful moments parents may experience when their child speaks for the first time. It is also a significant step in your child’s development and growth. However, when a toddler manifests symptoms of speech and vocabulary limitations, it becomes a worry for parents. Normal speech and language development include:
At the end of 3 months:
Smile at you
Make cooing sounds
When spoken to, they might get quiet or smile
Seem as though they recognize a parent’s voice
Make different crying sounds for different needs
By the end of 6 months:
Make gurgling sounds
Babble or make other sounds
Use their voice to show pleasure/displeasure
Look in the direction of sounds
Respond to changes in tone of voice from an adult
Pay attention to sounds made by objects/toys/music
At the end of 12 months:
Attempt to imitate speech sounds
Say simple words like “dada,” “mama”
Respond to simple directions, such as “Come here”
Recognize common items, like “doggie”
Look in the direction of sounds
By the end of 18 months:
Know the names of known people, objects, and body parts
Follow simple directions
Say 10 words
At the end of 24 months:
Use simple 2-word phrases like “more juice”
As one or two-word questions like “Go bye-bye?”
Follow simple questions and understand simple questions
Say about 50 or more words
Speech is understood by parents/primary caregivers at least half of the time
Help your late talker communicate better
What is a late talker and what are the signs that your child may be one
A late talker is a child who has delayed speech and language development. At the age of 18 months, most children have about a 50-word vocabulary. But a late talker has a vocabulary of fewer than 50 words. They also start to put words together much later than other kids their age.
According to The Hanen Centre, a late talker is a kid between 18 and 30 months with adequate language comprehension and average development in other areas (hearing, vision, motor, and cognitive skills) who nevertheless has a limited spoken vocabulary compared to peers for their age. Some children are able to catch up on their own; others are not.
There are several signs that may indicate your child is a late talker:
Your child isn’t saying any words by his first birthday
He/she has a very limited vocabulary even at 18 months old
Your child uses single words only and has difficulty putting words together to form sentences
Your child’s speech is difficult to understand, even for close family members
Denial makes it hard for parents to accept that their child has a problem. Follow your gut and listen to the red flags. The earlier you catch it, the better. If left untreated, speech and language problems can lead to difficulties in school, both academically and socially.
Risk Factors of Children who do not outgrow late talking
Late talkers are at risk of having long-term language difficulties if they don’t receive help. Research indicates that as many as 50% of late talkers will have persistent language difficulties, and up to 20% will have significant problems such as dyslexia, ADHD, and Tourette syndrome.
Risk factors have been identified to help determine if a child is likely to have continuing language problems. These factors make it easier to understand if a child is a late talker who does not outgrow it on their own. Risk factors include:
quiet as an infant; little babbling
a history of ear infections
a limited number of consonant sounds (eg. p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
does not imitate (copy) words
uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
difficulty playing with peers (social skills)
a family history of communication delay, learning or academic difficulties
a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
uses few gestures to communicate
How to get help if you think your child is a late talker
If you think your child may be a late talker, the best thing to do is to seek professional help. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can assess your child’s development and provide you with guidance on how to best support your child’s communication skills. The earlier a child receives speech therapy, the better. Speech therapy can help late talkers develop the language skills they need to communicate effectively. These problems include:
Speech sounds (enunciation)
Language (expressive, receptive (auditory))
Literacy and its connection to Language
Feeding and swallowing
If your child is a late talker, don’t wait for him or her to “outgrow” the problem. Research has shown that children who receive speech therapy early on are more likely to catch up to their peers and have better long-term outcomes.
The benefits of early intervention for children who are late talkers
New researches show that the earlier a child with language difficulties is identified and receives intervention, the better that child’s outcomes will be. Early intervention means giving help and support as soon as possible after a problem is identified. It can make a big difference in the lives of children with speech and language problems.
The earlier a child receives speech therapy, the better. Speech therapy can help late talkers develop the language skills they need to communicate effectively. If children are delayed, it is best to refer them to a speech-language pathologist or seek other professional help as soon as possible.
Benefits of Speech Therapy for Late Talkers include:
Developing the ability to communicate their needs and wants
Increasing their vocabulary
Improving their pronunciation
Helping them to understand what others are saying
Teaching them how to have a conversation
Improving their social skills
Increasing their confidence and self-esteem
For non-native English speakers, bilingual speech therapy can assist in establishing treatment in both languages for a late talker
If you think your child may be a late talker, don’t wait to seek help. The sooner you get started on speech therapy, the better the chance of success.
Frequently Asked Questions about Late Talker vs Speech Delay
To assist you to check for warning symptoms and locate the finest support for a late talker, we’ve compiled the most Frequently Asked Questions about Late Talker vs Speech Delay below.
How common is late talking?
Late talking is more common than most people realize. It affects approximately 5% of children between the ages of 18 and 30 months. Boys are four times more likely to be late talkers than girls.
What causes late talking?
The exact cause of late talking is unknown, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Is there a difference between a late talker vs speech delay?
A late talker is a child who is not yet using a speech at the same level as other children his or her age. A child with a late talker speech delay has difficulty producing certain sounds, which can make it hard for people to understand him or her.
What are the consequences of late talking?
If left untreated, late talking can lead to long-term difficulties with communication, social skills, and academic achievement.
How is late talking diagnosed?
Late talking is usually diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) after conducting a comprehensive assessment.
What are the treatment options for late talking?
The most effective treatment for late talking is speech therapy. A trained SLP can help your child develop the skills he or she needs to communicate effectively.
If you are concerned about your child’s language development, it is important to seek professional help. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now. An SLP can assess your child’s development and provide you with guidance on how to best support your child’s communication skills. The earlier a child receives speech therapy, the better.
About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.