What to do if your child is a ‘late talker’? Research says you shouldn’t “Wait and See”
For many years, the literature on what parents should do if their toddler is a ‘late talker’ was mixed. Many doctors and speech-language pathologists would tell parents that it is alright to wait 6-12 months to see if their child’s language “catches up” before enrolling their child in therapy. Recent studies show that approximately 70% of late talking toddlers will catch up to their peers. But that leaves 30% of toddlers whose language skills will not catch up without speech and language therapy. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which child will catch up and which child will experience long-lasting language delays. These delays will impact their social skills, school readiness, and reading and writing skills later in life. Fortunately, research also shows that therapy for a late talker is very effective, particularly when they are enrolled early. The earlier they begin therapy, the more gains they will make.
So what should parents do if they are worried their child is a late talker?
First, parents can educate themselves on communication milestones. This article by LD Online lists expressive, receptive, and social speech and language milestones for ages 0-6. This article by Playing With Words 365 lists red flags for speech and language development for children ages 0-5.
Next, if you believe your child is a ‘late talker,’ reach out to a speech-language therapist for an evaluation. If therapy is recommended, enroll them quickly and be involved in the therapy process. Research shows that the earlier a late talker begins therapy, the greater the outcomes will be.
Most importantly, parents can participate in the therapy process and learn to help their own child communicate. While therapy sessions may only take place 1-2 times per week, involved parents can learn strategies that can be used consistently at home. These parents will see the greatest outcomes of therapy for their late-talking child.
“A Closer Look at the Late Talker Study: Why Parents Should Beware of a 'Wait and See' Approach.” Does Child Care Make a Difference to Children's Development?, The Hanen Centre, 2015, www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/a-closer-look-at-the-late-talker-study--why-parent.aspx.
“Speech and Language Milestone Chart.” General Information About Speech and Language Disorders | LD Topics | LD OnLine, Pro-Ed Inc., 1999, www.ldonline.org/article/6313.
Yeh, Katie. “Red Flags.” Playing With Words 365, www.playingwithwords365.com/red-flags/.