Is Your Child a Late Talker?

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Is Your Child a Late Talker?

Children who are considered to be late talkers can manipulate you by pouting or crying when you are watching them / Photo by Tatyana Tomsickova via 123RF


Children who are late talkers can understand the language but they cannot express it. Kids who belong to this group can say less than 20 words when they reach 18 months, less than 100 words by 24 months, and they are not speaking in short phrases yet. A late talker may not have a wide vocabulary but uses only nouns, some verbs, prepositions, pronouns, and adjectives. 

You can call a child's name they will respond to it. You can also give the late talker child instructions and you will see that they can understand it. This group of children who are considered to be late talkers can manipulate you by pouting or crying when you are watching them. They will also use gestures to communicate. These kids require some strategies to help them progress in their language and speech skills. A speech therapist can also be helpful to assist them to overcome this speed bump in speech. 

This group of late talkers does not have any special conditions or disabilities. It is sometimes a wonder why these kids have the necessary speech pieces and yet they cannot communicate for their age.

Other people will advise you to wait and see. There are also other comments, such as boys will talk later than girls or that kids have different phases of development.  This can be confusing to the family that just wants to see their child talk. The best course of action is to not wait. Find an expert. 

Language Milestones 

It is important to be able to determine if your child's vocabulary is right for their age:

18 months - during this stage, kids should be able to use at least 20 words including nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives, and social words. Some examples of these words are baby, eat, go, hot, hi, up, down, bye. 

24 months - kids should be able to use at least 100 words and combine them to form a phrase. These combinations must be created by the child. Examples of such word combinations can be "eat cookie" or "doggie bark."


Catching Up

Can late talkers catch up? It depends. There are children who are able to catch up while there is a small percentage who are not able to catch up.  Usually, late talkers catch up by school age. According to, those who have a hard time catching up may have multiple ear infections, hard time imitating words, limited consonants, limited to nouns, history of speech issues, male, low birth weight or born premature, and have a hard time with play and social skills. 

The cause of late talking is unknown. It is not an error of parenting, so parents need not blame themselves. 

There are children who are able to catch up while there is a small percentage who are not able to catch up / Photo by Antonio Guillem via 123RF notes that research shows that 70% to 80% of late talkers can catch up with their peers when they start school. These kids are sometimes called late bloomers. When their general language skills are tested, their score falls in the average range. This means that there is no need to worry. However, according to other research, there may be some difficulties that the child may encounter that must not be ignored. There are late bloomers who may show weakness in language and literacy skills. 

Between 20% and 30% of late talkers do not outgrow their speech delay. They may be diagnosed with a language disorder. 


Helping Late Talkers

Helping late talkers as early as possible will make a huge impact on their development. Since early language intervention can be done, they can have a higher chance to succeed in their language issues. 

If you think your child may be a late talker, seek help at the soonest possible time. The earlier you start, the sooner this can be corrected and the better the results. You can start by consulting a speech pathologist about what you have observed so far. Make sure to have your child's sense of hearing evaluated even though you think that there is no problem. It is better to be on the safe side.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy depends on the needs of the child. A good resource to find information about late talkers is the Hanen Program. There are various therapists who have training in this program during therapy sessions. Some strategies that can be done are the following:

1. Parents must increase self-talk. Self-talk is simply telling the child what you are doing. 
2. Teach a child to imitate if there is a need. Spend a few minutes imitating the sounds of your child because this can make them enjoy and it will help them imitate you as well. 
3. Expand the vocabulary of the child. If a child says one word, try to add another word to expand the phrase. 

These are just some methods to try in order to help with your child's speech development. There are other things that the speech therapist can advise during therapy, depending on your child's progress.