Late talkers…. Risk factors and how to help.

I just learnt that Albert Einstein was a late talker. I found this interesting. I am not too sure why, I just did! I think it may be because it highlights that we all follow our own path and they are all awesome. We worry that if our child is not talking, then they won’t do well at school. So on and so forth. We get caught up in our heads (or perhaps that is just me!).

Some parents get really concerned when their young child is late to talk and others are not worried at all. If there is one thing I have learnt over the years of working as a speech pathologist it is that ability is measured in the context within which we exist.

What is a problem for one family, is not for the next.

My opinion as a parent is the more I know the better I can help my child. Also, I like to know I am making things better for them. I am sure sometimes I overthink this waaaaaaay too much.

Even the research for our profession shows that a late talking 2 year old may have perfectly normal language at 4 years of age and the child who seems perfectly normal at 2 may in fact have language concerns at 4 years of age. So my perspective of empowering parents (and all adults who come in contact with kids) to be able to provide rich language learning environments all day, every day remain (in my opinion) valid! You don’t need special toys or games.

So back to late talkers – what constitutes a late talker?

A late talker is a toddler (between 18 and 30 months) who in all ways except their expressive language are developing in a typical pattern. So they understand what is being said to them, they are typically social and their walking and fine motor skills are age appropriate.

Researchers don’t know why some kids are late talkers but they do know about 13% of 2 year olds are late talkers.

A general rule of thumb is by 18 months your babe should have at least 20 words and at 24 months they should use at least 100 words and be beginning to combine words together. Things like “thank you” and bye bye” count as 1 word as these are social words that are seen as 1 word. Two word combinations include “Bye daddy”, “drink milk”.

We actually don’t know who will “just grow out of it” and who will not. What we do know though is that there are risk factors which may influence how likely your child is to have continuing language difficulties.

These risk factors include:
• A history of ear infections,
• Quiet as a baby,
• Limited number of sounds,
• Not using pretend play and linking ideas and actions together in play,
• Not imitating words,
• Using mostly nouns and limited verbs,
• Limited gestures,
• Difficulty playing with others,
• A family history of communication difficulties, and
• Difficulties understanding.

I would encourage you to:
• Get their ears checked;
• Get down to their level (or lift them to yours) and be face to face and talk.

If you want more information on how to support toddlers when the words are not coming then head here.

It is my ebook “What to do when the words are not coming: Essential tools for parents of toddlers.” I hope it helps.

Little moments matter: Building talking and speaking one small moment at a time.