Late Talking Toddlers / Toddler Frustrations

​Do you know a TODDLER that you could tick one or more of the following points? Then this article is a "must read"! They could be "late talking toddlers" or "advanced talkers"!

    • a child that is showing frustration yet you often can't work out what is the actual problem
    • a child that bites when they are upset or annoyed
    • a child that is often whinging and again it is often hard to know why
    • a child that drags you everywhere to show you what they want
    • a child that calls "mummy", "mummy" repetitively but then does not seem to say or ask you anything.
    • a child that seems to understand everything but is not saying any or many words for their age.
    • a parent that should be a paid interpreter for their child
    • a child that could be the next award winning mime artist
    • a parent that wants to make sure their toddler is going to be kindy and Prep ready
    • a child that is too shy to mingle with other children and likes to stay close
    • a child that is too boisterous when they enter a play situation with other children
    • a parent that is frustrated that you have to repeat yourself so many times before they stop or turn to look at you
    • a child that has a history that we know can result in developmental delay - fragile X, premie, CP, Down's Syndrome, Cri de Chat, multiple birth
    • Early Talkers can get frustrated too! Many are wanting children to talk more with them, listen to them more or be involved in more elaborate imagination games. Frustrations can occur when peers are not matching their communication needs.

So what is the REAL "problem" if you have ticked any of the above Toddler concerns?

​All of the above concerns may have one underlying problem. The REAL problem is likely to be that the Toddler's communication development is not matching their need or ability to communicate with others in the most effective way for their age. They may be Late Talking Toddlers or even Advance Talkers!!!

Toddler Talk

Online eProgram for all Parents of Toddlers. Get them Kindy ready. Avoid frustrations resulting from speech skills not matching the Toddler's needs

​It would be as frustrating as when a Dentist asks you a question just as they put in  wads of gauze, a few instruments and half their hands into your mouth! You are probably so distracted by what is happening you don't even focus on what they are saying. Alternatively you know how to answer but you can't talk or only mumble comes out! 

ALL OF THE ABOVE are likely to have one underlying real problem

an inadequate ability to use communicaiton - speech - to meet their needs

CASE STUDY 1:  Why was 2 year old Elsie so frustrated & her talking stagnated!

​The concern:

Elsie presented at SpeechNet Speech Pathology at 23 months of age. She had had a few ear infections however no major hearing concerns were identified on assessment; and no major medical issues were reported.  Elsie's mum was quite upset and concerned that Elsie had such a sweet nature but lately Elsie was getting very frustrated, crying, hitting out at her older sister and then at times -  maybe even worse -  was becoming quiet and withdrawn from other children at playgroup.

 Looking for strengths & gaps:

​A screen of her spoken words using the Spoken Word Online Counter by mum at home suggested she was only saying about 15 words which placed her in the definite late talker range. The Spoken Word Counter  also showed that she was not using a broad range of word formats. She was mainly just naming things. She did not have any action words (run, go, stop), describing words (e.g., wet, sticky, yukky) or early pronouns (e.g, mine, you). This is common in late talking toddlers. Toddlers rarely begin to say sentences until they have around 50 spoken words and they include a range of different kinds of words (e.g., an action word + a name of something such as "kick ball').

​Investigation suggested that Elsie was listening and attending well to what was being said around her but just wasn't attempting to communicate or participate in the interactions. Then when she really wanted something or something went wrong she had no way of communicating her needs or wants or feelings! (Get your FREE Attention Screener below)

​The underlying problem was that she had started saying a few words but her spoken speech & spoken language seemed to have stagnated. Mum even reported that she used to say more words but some had even dropped off! Her level of communication was well below her understanding level resulting in frustration which was coming out with tears, biting and sadness!

​There are several key foundation skills that are known to impact on toddler speech and language development.  We discovered one skill was below her other skills!  And this was her imitation skill development.​ Imitation skills follow a developmental path from copying big body movements to finer body movements & gestures, to facial expressions, to vocal copying of exclamations (e.g., Uh OH!, Weeee) to speech sounds and words.

the skills provided to the parents to help late talking toddlers such as elsie;

Elsie was great at copying body movements (e., clapping, hopping and pointing) but was not imitating any vocalizations.  Now it is often hard to know why this might happen. Sometimes in late talking toddlers early imitation is not reinforced. Attempts to imitate therefore slowly reduce. The child may be aware that when they tried to copy a word it didn't sound right or people around her didn't recognize it as a vocal attempt. Other children just seem to plateau in terms of their imitation skills. Whatever the reason, delayed or reduced imitation skills have been shown to have significant impact on speech & language development; and in fact later academic and social development if not addressed.

The mother reported that she tried to get Elsie to copy words, but she seemed stubborn and wouldn't do it. Typically children will go through a "parroting stage" where they copy intonation, words and phrases they over hear. If this stage is not met children miss out on valuable "practice" in talking. 

​Small steps ensures the child's confidence in their abilities is maintained:

​Dr McMahon, was able to show Elsie's mum through games and demonstrating verbal scripts how to encourage and boost Elsie's imitation confidence -  breaking the deadlock in Elsie's talking skills. Dr McMahon, as shown in Step 3 of FOCUS on Toddler Talk was able explain, give specific games and worksheets to help her FOCUS on this important learning skill. By adapting the activities directly to Elsie's level her confidence and ability to imitate blossomed. Small steps in imitation were taken:  first encouraging Elsie to imitate things that were easy for her (e.g., hand games), then adding some imitation of fun mouth movements (e.g, Mr Tongue Children’s ebook , pretend blowing of bubbles, pretend licking of ice-creams); then fun exclamations linked to actions (e.g, wee, uh oh); then word-like exclamations and imitation of words that included some of the 15 words she was already saying  (e.g, oh No, ball!); and finally imitation of brand new words previously not said! A range of toys, craft activities, outings and the Imitation App was used to ensure the imitation skills were built across a range of games and environments.

​Sometimes a game where you are imitating the child can increase their understanding that it can be fun to imitate. Following lots of social rewards (laughing together, clapping, high fives) at any vocal attempt no matter how close her speech was to the target word, Elsie's willingness to copy blossomed.

​Before long Elsie was copying not only new words but little phrases too! There was also an increase in her spontaneous spoken words.  Her frustration reduced!  Elsie's Mum said  she was so glad to have her little girl back and was almost in tears after a session when Elsie was talking happily and freely in play with her sister! 

What is considered late talking?

By 2 years of age children are typically saying around 200 words. 

​A late talker would be considered a 24 month old saying less than 50 words and/ OR not putting 2-words together to make little sentences (e..g, go car).

help reduce whinging and help your toddler start communicating

As a parent it's great to get information or confirm you are providing a great language learning environment

Dr Sandra McMahon, Speech-Language Pathologist, Phd - assisting toddler talk

​Dr McMahon has worked in Major Paediatric Hospitals, conducted research & lectured within the University setting and worked clinically for over 15 years with Toddlers.

Her passion is to provide parents with skills to optimize their children's communication development in the early years. This is  to assist all children to enjoy their schooling journey with social confidence and a love of academic learning.

Dr McMahon's passion has lead to her presenting at numerous parent conferences and workshops. This has crystallized into the FOCUS on Toddler Talk online eProgram for parents - a way to provide more parents with this valuable information in an affordable and accessible format. An eProgram that is great if a parent is concerned they have a late talking toddler. It is also a great way to prevent longer-term social, behavioral and academic concerns---- before they become established for any child. The eProgram has 3 levels. Activities can be adjusted for late talking toddlers, for children showing typical development and for toddlers showing advanced talking skills.

So much research points to the benefits of early input before a child is 5 years of age for the best long-term outcomes. Late talking in the Toddler years has been linked with concerns in primary school ranging from reading and spelling delays, depression and social skills issues.

Dr McMahon noted, "the activities and ideas presented in FOCUS on Toddler Talk are for ALL parents of Toddlers. My goal is to reach as many parents as I can and get them to understand that early communication, in fact communication in general, is key to making & keeping friends and a life time of learning. A goal is for each and every child to maximise this key underlying skill - i.e., communicating to their best abilities- will have such far reaching implications across their life span".  

It is true some late talkers are simply late bloomers but two-thirds will potentially have long-term issues. Research has failed to identify which late talkers will be the ones that will "grow" out of it and which ones will have learning or social concerns - so why not ensure all parents have the  skills they can use in their everyday play and interaction with their Toddlers to ensure the best outcomes possible for all children. 

5 ways YOu can help your toddler talk effectively -> prevent frustrations

`1. FOCUS on Toddler Talk: Parents/ Carers/ educators of under 3 year old Toddlers can access techniques that can be embedded in every day interactions and play.

2. Observations by parents /carers/ educators with easy ways to observe and monitor development so that input offered by parents are at the level that will optimize each child's communication developmental journey. By working out what skills are strong and which ones can be boosted,  parents can vary their input accelerating the child's communication abilities and therefore learning potential.

3. Communicate with others - Show Toddlers new ways of trying to communicate with others so that they feel heard and their attempts to communicate are rewarded by getting their needs met.

4. Understanding - comes before speaking - boosting comprehension of ideas plus helping the toddler to see that gestures and speech helps to reduce their frustration.

5. Speech - by breaking down the steps of learning to communicate into small achievable steps effective communication systems can be developed. Strengthening foundation skills can lead to improved Spoken language.


F  FOCUS on speech, language & Learning areas

= Observe what level your child is at!

= Communicating socially with others

= Understanding Comes before Talking

​S = Speech: saying sounds, words & sentences

Start identifying your child's strengths & areas to boost

Observe your child's ATTENTION SKILLS - a key to learning to communicate and reducing frustrations

Grab the focus on toddler talk and  see if you are providing a great language learning environment for your toddler/s 

Click on the button below for more information and to buy the FOCUS on Toddler Talk eProgram for IMMEDIATE access.  Great for all children under 3 years of age or using less spoken words than would be expected for age.

Amazing value as it includes 4 online screeners (Attention Screener, Adult input styles, Imitation Skills & Social Communicative Intent skills), Information videos, video examples of activities for  3 levels - foundation, typical development and advanced skills

how to help toddler talk

FOCUS on Toddler Talk - Steps 1 to 4 for only $75.00 as an Introductory OFFER

The videos are like obtaining "face-to-face"  information with Dr McMahon -  an experienced  Speech-Language Pathologist. NOW that's amazing value when you think about how much time the program would represent with such an experienced Speech Pathologist .

An initial consult with a Private Speech Pathologist can be from $90 to over $200 

One 60 minute speech therapy session can cost  over $150 for an hour  - FOCUS on Toddler Talk has over 10 hours of information videos and videos demonstrating activities.

​Parent information books and ebooks that require lots and lots of reading can cost any thing up to $80+ - this program provides excessive amounts of information, toy recommendations, scripts, worksheets, checklists for less than even one book - and the easy to watch videos makes taking in the information in very accessible.

​All of this value  for only $75.00.. really very little to ensure you have the skills to optimise your Toddler's social, emotional & academic foundations.

​Remember: This eProgram aims to provide information for parents, carers and educators. It is recommended that you consult a health professional or obtain a direct assessment with a suitably qualified Speech Therapist for specific concerns. Please feel free to contact SpeechNet Speech Pathology for specific information on individual assessment or treatment plans in one of our Brisbane Clinics or via Skype. Email us on or Call us on (07) 3349 9234

TOddler Talking

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See how Focus on Toddler Talk can Start Boosting your child's Speech and Language today!

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Ideas for Home

Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

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Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

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Games & Toys 

Educational Games and Toys.  With Printables!

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Educational Book resources with Printables 

*Key References: Rescorla, L. (2011). Late Talkers: Do Good Predictors of Outcome Exist? Dev. Disabli Res Rev 2011; 17, 141-150

Hawa, V. V. & Spanoudis, G. (2014) Toddlers with Delayed Expressive Language: An Overview of the Characteristics, Risk Factors and Language Outcomes. Res. Dev. Disabil. Feb. 35(2): 400-7.

Herman, K., Coeh, D., Owens, S., Latimore, T., Reinke, L., McFarlane, E., & Duggan, A. (2016). Language Delays and Child Depressive Symptoms: the Role of Early Stimulation in the Home. Prevention Science, 17, (5) 533. 

Sandra McMahon