Red Flags for Receptive Language Delays in Toddlers

receptive language delays toddlers

As we noted receptive language delays in toddlers are often missed until they start more formal schooling. To really know if a toddler is understanding spoken words, it is important to recognise when they are being good “guesses” rather than showing that they truly understand a word.

Receptive language delays in toddlers can be masked by their clever “detective skills” of reading the clues around them. Toddlers can guess the understanding of words from clues such as:

The situation

(e.g., “come up” as you pick up the keys and get up to move)

Hand Gestures

(e.g., “get the ball” as you point to the object you were playing with; “give it to me” when you have your hand out stretch to receive the object).

Your eye pointing

(e.g., you may glance at the thing you want them to show you)

Body gestures

(e.g., You may give clues by shaking your head “no” as you ask “Is it a dog?)

Obvious next steps in a routine

(e.g., “Shoes off” when you are getting ready for a bath. Are they following the spoken words in the direction or just “understand” what is expected in that situation)?

receptive language delays toddlers

Because of their clever ability to read clues, many parents, without realising, attribute higher understanding skills then they really have.

Looking at the developmental milestones for your child’s age will assist in thinking about whether there are receptive language delays in toddlers. Remember the ages listed below are estimates and also very generous.

These are RED FLAGS meaning the child should have had the skills at earlier ages than listed below.
Flag: Not doing what you ask a lot of the time/ Not Following Directions

1 year old

Not Following 1 step Directions

e.g., Give me the spoon

2-3 year olds

Not Following 2 step Directions

e.g., Find your shoes and give me the bag

Flag: Understanding of words is poor or not progressing (poor Receptive Vocabulary)

1 year old

Doesn’t correctly point or look at named everyday objects, toys or pictures

e.g., I see a bird

2-3 year olds

Doesn’t point or look at less common items

e.g., Find the elephant

Flag: Understanding of Concepts is poor or not progressing

1 year old

Doesn’t complete instructions with early concepts

e.g., Put it in vs on

Flag: Ignores or Poor at Answering Questions

1 year old

Not answering simple Yes/No Questions with head shakes

e.g., More cheese?

2-3 year olds

Ignores or makes errors that involve later concepts

e.g., Put it next to vs under the toy car

receptive language delays toddlers

Receptive language skills are essential for communication because they are foundation skills for learning in all areas of development. Children will present with expressive language difficulties if receptive language delays are not address early.

How to help with Receptive Language Delays in Toddlers

Monitor understanding stills and not just the toddler’s “talking” skills. Keep the “learning” fun and part or your everyday moments. As Toddlers are learning from all their interactions with you grab, some ideas from our “language Moments” video tips for parents, apps and free downloadable ideas.

receptive language delays toddlers

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