When is a child a Late Talker?
A Late Talker is a toddler between 18 and 30 months who has limited spoken vocabulary for his or her age and has difficulty producing verbal language in the context of otherwise good understanding and normal general development. While research so far has been unable to explain this kind of expressive language delay, it does tells us that Late Talkers are more likely to:
- Be male
- Have a family history of early language delay
- Have been born at less than 85% of their optimal birthweight or before 37 weeks
What are the critical language milestones toddlers need to reach?
Children who have not reached the following milestones should be seen by a Speech-Language Therapist:
- By 18 months children should use at least 20 words including nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives and social words.
- By 24 months children should use at least 100 words, be combining 2 words together and be using at least 2 verbs. Word combinations should be actively generated by the child, e.g.: More drink. Mummy gone. (Memorised expressions do not count, e.g.: What’s that? Yes please. Bye-bye.)
- By 30 months children should use a minimium of 2 early sentences (including a subject and a verb) inside half an hour’s play time with a parent. They should be building their own sentences rather than using mostly memorised expressions.
Can Late Talkers catch up to their peers without intervention?
Some Late Talkers do indeed “grow out of it” by the time they start school. However, studies show that these children go on to have weaker oral language skills than their peers. In fact, research has now proven that language is the ‘super skill’ that sets young children up for academic success, and that a child’s language skills before entering school predicts their succes in math, reading and affects social skills. We therefore recommend intervention for all toddlers who are Late Talkers to prevent difficulties later on at school.
Research has identified a list of risk factors that suggest a Late Talker is more likely to have ongoing language difficulties, and Late Talkers who present with the last 3 risk factors are at greatest risk of continuing language delay:
- Was a quiet baby and did not babble much
- Has a history of ear infections
- Says a limited number of consonant sounds
- Does not link pretend ideas and actions together in play
- Does not imitate words
- Says mostly nouns and few verbs
- Has difficulty playing with peers
- Has a family history of communciation delay, learning or academic difficulties
- Has a mild delay in understanding
- Uses few gestures to communicate
What you should do if you think your child is a Late Talker:
- Organise for his or her hearing to be tested
- Seek professional advice from a Speech-Language Therapist!