late talkers

Late Talkers.  How to tell if your child is a late talker

Late Talkers are “officially” different to a “child that is late to talk”.  A late talker is typically referring to a child with no other significant delays in their development other than that they are not saying enough words for their age.  A child that is late to talk may also have other developmental concerns as well as the fact that they are not saying enough words for their age.

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The "wait and see" approach to late talkers

On the surface, it can be hard to tell which child falls into the late talker category and which child is late to talk because there are really additional underlying concerns. Either way, research is showing a “wait and see” approach for children presenting with late talking is not ideal. Early screens and intervention by a Speech Pathologist is recommended if your child is late to talk compared to same aged peers.

​Hammer et. al’s (2017) research concluded that late talkers at 2 years of age increased children's risk of having low vocabulary at 4 years of age and low school readiness at 5 years of age. Many research studies conclude that young children with low vocabularies require additional supports prior to school entry.

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How to tell if your child is a late talker:

late talkers are children between 18 and 30 months that show

  • they can understand what is being said to them,
  • are showing good developmental skills in other areas (play skills, motor skills)
  • are social (smile and want to play with you)

but “just” are not saying enough words for his or her age.

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How to tell if your child is a late talker or has underlying concerns causing them to be “late to talk”

A child being late to talk can be a first red flag or warning sign that a child’s development is not on track.

Children that are late to talk may not have any other obvious signs that there are other underlying problems. As a speech pathologist begins to investigate why a child is late to talk, other question marks about development may arise.

​Some children may of course have known concerns that are linked to late talking (e.g., repeated ear infections, Down’s Syndrome).

Other children showing signs of late talking may not have any formal diagnosis yet. Overtime health professionals can identify medical diagnoses to account for the late talking. The fact that they are late to talk may be the trigger to investigating the child’s development to discover other underlying issues (e.g., identifying global developmental delays, intellectual impairment, early signs of Autism).

As there is a range of factors influencing child development it is not always straight forward to answer the question when do children start to talk.

Late Talkers Red Flags Signs that your child may be a Late Talker or Late to talk – Key late talker Milestones

The following provides the expected child’s vocabularies that are considered appropriate for his or her age at two main check points: 18 months and 2 years of age. Follow the links for more details on the number of words a child typically says at these ages.

  • If your child has not yet reached these milestones they would be considered to be late talkers. Remember these are the “bare minimum” as many children of these ages are saying heaps+++ more words than the numbers given below. If your child is not meeting these milestones, he or she should be seen by a speech-language pathologist:
​An 18 month old at a minimum should be saying 18-20 words,
  • including different types of words, such as names of things (“ball”, “cup”), action words (“eat”, “go”), position words (“up”, “down”), describing words (“hot”, “yummy), and social words (“hi”, “more).
​24 month old children typically use at least 100 words AND combine 2 words together
  • Frequently the quote of 50 words at 2 years is given however this is the very lower limit. If a child is only using 50 words or less at 2 years of age, it would be considered a definite delay.
  • Word combinations should be spontaneously said and “made up” by the child. Frequently copied or practised phrases such as “bye-bye” or even “all gone “, would not be used in a milestone check. To meet the milestone of using 2-word sentences the child has to make them up themselves e.g., “my ball, in cup, Daddy go”.
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Many parents use “How many words should my child be saying” Milestone checklists as the child turns one month older between 18 and 30 months.

A monthly or bi-monthly check allows you to monitor early communication development. Our Online First Word Counter with pictures and videos allows you to show your child pictures to see if they know the names of things and actions. This allows you to get a more accurate first word count. The First Word Counter provides a print out of the number of words that would indicate a child is doing OK, advanced or at risk of being a late talker at age in months.

late talkers child late talker
Check out our series of blogs to help you monitor your child’s spoken vocabulary at some key ages
Can you tell a child will be a late talker earlier than 18 months.

While children may not be formally labelled as late talkers until 18 months of age, signs of late talking may be identified at earlier ages. Thinking about the talking developmental milestones in the baby period can help parents identify when baby talk is not on track. Early intervention is always better!

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Let's not wait!  Together we can find out the answers to all your late talker worries and put in place a plan to get your child talking to their full potential.  Contact us now to organise an assessment with our experienced Speech Pathologists: In clinic, mobile services or through telemedicine.  We are here to help!

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