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Late Bloomer or Language Delay?

Kids learn how to talk at different times. Some children learn to talk very early, while others may need more time. If your child is talking later than other children the same age, how do you know if they are a late talker or if they have a language delay? Read the tips below and talk to a speech-language pathologist if you have concerns.

A “later talker” is a toddler under the age of 30 months who has a small vocabulary for their age but is developing typically otherwise.

Risk Factors

A “later talker” is a toddler under the age of 30 months who has a small vocabulary for their age but is developing typically otherwise. There is not a way to quickly and easily determine if your child just needs more time or if there is an underlying problem that requires speech therapy. However, there are some risk factors that can help you determine if you think your child is more likely to need some support with their speech and language development. If your child is 18 to 30 months old and not talking as much as you think they should be, the following factors put your child at risk for language problems:

Family History: Research shows that children who have a family history of language delay are more likely to also have language development problems.

Understanding Language: Children typically understand words before they can use them. This is called receptive language. If your child is able to follow directions, point to objects that you name, and generally seems to understand what you are saying, this could indicate that your child is more likely to catch up with their expressive language skills. If they have difficulty with receptive language, they may have a developmental language disorder.

Using Gestures: Before children begin to talk, they often use gestures to get their point across. This could include pointing, using sign language, waving, or putting their arms up to indicate “up”. The more signs a child is using, the more likely it is that the child will catch up with their language skills. If a child is not pointing or using many gestures to communicate, this can be a sign of a language delay.

Learning New Words: It is important to look at the rate of progress your child is making. You should notice your child attempting to say new words, adding more and more each month. If you are not hearing many new words, this could indicate the need for a speech-language evaluation.

Age: If your child is 30 months or older, this is considered beyond the range of a “late talker” and there is most likely something deeper going on that requires intervention. The older a child becomes, the wider the gap will become between them and their peers.

Other Developmental Delays: If your child has difficulties in any other area of development, including gross motor, fine motor, or social/emotional skills, it is more likely that they will also have a delay in language development.

Next Steps

If you are concerned that your child is not meeting their speech and language milestones, speak to your pediatrician or contact us to schedule a speech-language evaluation. You know your child best and you are your child’s best advocate. You don’t have to “wait and see” if there might be a problem. A speech-language pathologist can help you determine if your child is likely to catch up on their own or if speech therapy would benefit them. They will also give you suggestions for ways to promote more communication at home. If you have any questions about your child’s speech and language development, feel free to reach out to us!

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