My toddler is a late talker: Should I be worried?

Worried about your toddler’s late talking? Speech pathologists in Sydney’s northern beaches share expert advice.

Toddlers who are late talkers - advice from speech therapists in Sydney's northern beaches

We’ve all heard it a hundred times, “Don’t compare your child’s development to any other child, they are all different!”

Or maybe, “Don’t worry, my child was slow to talk and now they won’t be quiet”

Or “She’ll outgrow it!”

Although we do our best not to compare our children to others, we cannot help it!

This comparison leads to a judgement on whether our child is developing normally.

We can’t help but think to ourselves, “What if she doesn’t outgrow it?” or “Waiting is too hard, what if there was something I could do to help now?”

The real answer is you won’t know for sure.

That is why it is always best to seek the advice of a speech and language pathologist who can help you determine if your child’s development is on track.

Stages of speech development

While children pass through very predictable stages in their language development, what differs is the time frame in which this happens.

For example, your child will always say a single word as their first word, they won’t immediately begin speaking in sentences.

The timing of when they say their first word or when they begin speaking in sentences is what can differ.

Risk factors for late talking

Some risk factors have been identified in determining if a child is a late bloomer or has a true language delay.  Some of these risk factors are listed below:

  1. Receptive Language

    Understanding language often precedes expression of language.

    Studies have shown that if your child has good receptive language, their expression of language tends to be better in a year’s time than a child who also had poor receptive language.

  2. Age of Diagnosis

    Outcomes are typically worse for children whose diagnosis with a language delay comes late.

    The older your child is when diagnosed with a language delay, the more struggles he or she is likely to  experience.

    Another risk factor occurs if your child is making slow progress during a time when other children their age are making big gains in language skills.

    For example, children from age 2-3 typically increase their language significantly.

    If your child has slow language development in this year of life, they will be significantly behind their peers.

  1. Failure to babble or late onset of babbling

    All infants should be producing some type of babbling before their first birthday.

    Babbling and real speech overlap for some time after this as well.

  2. Middle ear infections (otitis media with effusion)

    Middle ear infections and associated hearing loss are a major risk factor for difficulty with speech and language development.

    If your child has frequent colds and ear infections, it is worthwhile having his or her hearing checked by audiologist because children who cannot hear well find it very hard to learn to speak.

  3. Initial consonant deletion

    Not being able to say the first sound of words, or deleting consonants at the beginning of the word (e.g. saying “at” for “cat”) is not a typical developmental error.

    This can indicate a moderate to severe speech sound disorder or hearing loss.

What to do if you are worried about your child’s late talking

If you have any concerns about your child’s language development, it is always best to seek the advice of a speech-language pathologist.

Your speech therapist can administer standardised tests, analyse your child’s pre-language and language skills, determine any underlying factors that may be causing a delay and counsel you on the best “next steps” to take.

© 2016 Kids First Children’s Services

Worried about your late talker?

Kids First’s experienced speech pathologists have helped hundreds of children in Sydney’s northern beaches to overcome speech and language delays.

If you are worried, trust your instinct and seek our professional advice.

Call Kids First in Brookvale on (02) 9938 5419 or pop your details into the form below and we will be in touch to arrange a time for you to bring your child to see a member of our speech pathology team.

We’re here to support you and your child - no matter what.

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