Children not talking at 18 months old is usually enough to get parents worried. We start to question whether our kids are developing normally or if there is something inhibiting their growth.
While most parents are usually told not to worry because “boys usually talk late” or “kids develop at their own pace”, there are situations that would call on you to seek help from your pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist.
So, which is it: do you wait and see, or do you seek help immediately? These are just some of the things we’ll be discussing today as we help you determine whether or not your child is a late talker.
The “Wait-and-See” Approach
The myths surrounding language development have often resulted in some parents “waiting” and “seeing” what happens to their child before doing something about their late talker. Some even reason that Einstein developed speech at a later age than most children and turned out to become one of the most brilliant minds in history.
Then, we have the “children develop at their own pace” reasoning that many parents use to explain their child’s delayed speech.
Children do have their own unique journey towards development to a certain extent, but this should not remove from the milestones they should already be achieving at a certain age. If it does, then you most certainly need to be concerned. It’s too risky to put hope on your child catching up when he or she might very well not be able to.
What You Need to Know About a Late Talker
Late talkers, in this case, doesn’t mean children suffering from autism, cerebral palsy, or any other disorder that causes language delay. It refers to toddlers between 18 to 30 months old who are developing normally in every aspect of growth except speech.
They can pretty much think, socialize, move, and play like most of the kids their age but aren’t able to express themselves through spoken language just as well.
Late-talking children can be particularly difficult for some parents to figure out because they seemingly have all the building blocks needed to communicate through speech effectively, yet are unable to do so.
While researchers are still divided on the reasons why a child becomes a late talker, they have managed to find common ground in the fact that prematurely-born male children are mostly affected by language delay problems. It has also been proven that around one in five two-year-olds become late talkers.
Speech Milestones to Keep in Mind
The extent of your child’s vocabulary at a certain age helps you determine how well his language skills are developing. If your child fails to meet the following milestones children his age have already reached, then it would be best to arrange an appointment with a speech-language pathologist immediately.
- At the very least, a child should have a 20-word vocabulary at 20 months old. This should include simple nouns like “mama”, “dada”, and “baby”, prepositions like “up” and “down”, words for socializing like “hi” and “bye”, and adjectives like “sleepy”.
- At two years old, your toddler should be able to use at least a hundred words and combine two words to form sentences, phrases, or questions.
Will A Late Talker Eventually Catch Up?
It’s normal for a parent to assume that since their happy kids are progressing normally in other areas of growth that they’d be able to catch up in the speech department eventually. While this is indeed true for many late-talking children, it also happens to not be true for many of them.
At the end of the day, there is no way to tell if your child will “grow out” of his condition. You can, however, check for the following risk factors that suggest a child will likely experience more language challenges in the future:
- A newborn that doesn’t babble
- A vulnerability to ear infections
- Can barely make any consonant sounds
- History of language delays in the family
- Barely uses any gestures to communicate
- Does not copy words or sounds
- Finds it difficult to socialize with peers
- Slow comprehension for his age
Any of the above risk factors, plus a limited vocabulary for a certain age, should be reason enough to consult a speech-language pathologist. It’s also important to note that kids with a family history of communication delays, comprehension issues, and lack of gestures are the biggest at risk of continuing speech delay.
The Speech and Sound Clinic recommends that instead of using the “wait-and-see” approach to address these problems, you should instead take your child to see a professional right away.
Once you suspect that your child is a late talker, seek help immediately. As much as you would love to hope that your child will eventually “catch up” to his peers in the speech department, you just can’t risk it.
The earlier you seek help from a speech-language pathologist, the better the future will look for your child. Working with a professional ensures that any hearing issues linked to language and speech delays will be evaluated and addressed properly to ensure optimal results. Choosing a tutor for your child that will help at home is also a great option. Just make sure you take action before it’s too late to correct potential issues.