Late talker or language delay?

Are you worried about your toddler’s development in speech and language?

Don’t panic yet! There’s a chance your child could just be a late talker. A late talker is a toddler between the ages of 18 to 30 months, who is developing normal play, social, thinking and motor skills, but who is limited in spoken vocabulary for their age. Most late talkers have difficulty with expressive language. Expressive language is used by toddlers when they are communicating their wants and needs. For example, asking for “milk” is a way that toddlers use expressive language to communicate their desire for a particular drink.

A language delay can be receptive, expressive, or a combination of both. A receptive language problem happens when your child has difficulty understanding language. An expressive language disorder happens when your child has difficulty expressing themselves.

Check-in with Speech & Language Milestones

If you are worried about your toddler’s language development check to see if your toddler is reaching normal language milestones. While every child develops at their own pace, most toddlers stick to a general schedule of milestones in speech. Look at milestones for specific ages by viewing the speech and language milestone chart.

If your toddler isn’t meeting normal milestones in speech it may be time to consult your GP who will suggest to make a referral to a paediatrician and/or a speech and language therapist. While your toddler may be fine — simply a late talker, it’s important to catch any delays early. Take a look at common warning signs of language delay in toddlers.

A speech-language therapist will recognize all the warning signs. She will conduct the proper tests to evaluate your child, not only by testing the expressive and the receptive language skills and but also analyse your child’s utterances in a variety of situations, determining any possible factors that may be slowing down the progress of your child’s language development and advise on which steps to take next.

Check-in with the symptoms of a language delay

If your child has a language delay, they won’t reach language milestones at the normal age. Their specific symptoms and the milestones they miss will depend on their age and the nature of their language delay.

Common symptoms of language delay include:

  • not babbling by the age of 15 months
  • not talking by the age of 2
  • an inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3
  • difficulty following directions
  • poor pronunciation or articulation
  • difficulty putting words together in a sentence
  • leaving words out of a sentence


What causes language delay?

Language delays in children have many possible causes. In some instances, more than one factor contributes to a language delay. Some common causes include the following:

  • It’s common for children who have a hearing impairment to have a language impairment as well. If they can’t hear language, learning to communicate can be difficult.
  • While not all children with autism have language delays, autism frequently affects communication.
  • A variety of intellectual disabilities can cause language delays. For instance, dyslexia and other learning disabilities lead to language delays in some cases.
  • Several psychosocial issues can cause language delays. For example, severe neglect can lead to problems with language development.

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Anna Biavati - Smith SLT presents
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