Who is a late talker?
Children are considered late talkers when they are between 18 and 30 months old and have a good understanding of language and what you are saying to them BUT they have limited expressive (spoken) language. Late talkers present with fewer than 50 words in their vocabulary and/or are not combining words. It is important to note that late talkers are typically developing in all other areas of development, including their play skills, motor skills, thinking skills, social skills, hearing, vision and so on.
Late talkers do not have an underlying diagnosis (Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, language delay etc).
What might this look like for your child?
Meet Master P. He is 2 years 7 months and was born following a normal pregnancy. He has met all his gross motor milestones, and he began babbling at age expected stages. His language development has however not continued and he is currently using only 20 words. The majority of his words are nouns, he does not have any verbs (doing words) or adjectives (describing words) in his vocabulary and he rarely combines two words together. He uses some routine phrases, such as “love you” and “what’s that?” He also uses minimal nonverbal communication strategies, such as pointing.
Master P and his parents came into the clinic for a language assessment, which revealed age appropriate receptive language (understanding of language) however his expressive language is delayed for his age.
Should we be concerned? Will my child catch up?
We know that approximately half of late talkers “catch up” to their peers by the time they go to school. But we do not know which ones!! However, a list of risk factors has been identified, which suggest that a child is more likely to have continuing language difficulties. These include:
History of ear infections
Limited number of consonant sounds (eg. p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc)
Does not imitate, or copy words
Does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
Difficulty playing with peers
Uses mostly nouns (names of people, place, things) and very few verbs (action words)
A family history of communication delay, learning or academic difficulties
Uses few gestures to communicate
Above checklist from: http://www.hanen.org/Home.aspx
Important Language Milestones
The following language milestones can be used to help you determine if your child’s vocabulary is appropriate for his or her age. If your child has not yet reached these milestones, you should contact your local speech pathologist for an assessment.
A child at 18 months of age should use at least 20 words, including different types of words, such as nouns (“apple”, “dog”), verbs (“eat”, “go”), prepositions (“up”, “down”), adjectives (“hot”, “thirsty”), and social words (“hi”, “bye”).
A child at 24 months of age should use at least 100 words and be combining two words together. It is important to note that these word combinations should be generated by the child, such as “Eat cookie”, and not be combinations that are ‘memorised chunks’ of language, such as “What’s that?” and “bye bye”.
If your child has a limited vocabulary for their age and any of the above risk factors, we recommend talking with a speech pathologist. It is never too early to seek help and advice!!