Speech and Language Clinic for Children

519.307.0995                                                   28 Mill Street, Orangeville, ON

Late Talkers

Many parents contact Kids Talk because their toddler is not yet talking. Parents are aware that their child is behind in reaching language milestones but are often told by others that their child will 'grow out of it'. The stages of expressive language development are very consistent however the range of 'normal' within those stages is quite large. This can be very confusing for parents. 

A good place to start is to look at age-appropriate vocabulary milestones

  • 18 month old children should have a minimum vocabulary of 20 words which will be mostly nouns but should include some other types of words (e.g., no, more, bye) 

  • 24 month old children should have a minimum of 50 single words which include nouns (e.g., doll, car, hat), verbs (e.g., go, eat, jump), prepositions (e.g., in, on) and adjectives (e.g., big, cold). They should also be combining two words together (e.g., go home, drink juice, baby eat).

A significant amount of research has been conducted in the area of early language development. We know that many late talking children will catch up to their peers on their own however some children will not. The following are known risk factors which may suggest that a child will have continued language difficulties.

Risk factors for continued language difficulties

  1. Weak understanding of language - A child who struggles with understanding language is more likely to have a true language delay than to be just a late talker.

  2. Limited gestures  - Long before a child begins to speak he/she communicates with others by using gestures, facial expressions, vocalizations, showing and pointing. If your toddler does not use gestures as a means to communicate he is at a greater risk of having continued language difficulties. Early gestures may be: waving, clapping, pointing, shaking head 'no', hands up and out for 'uh oh', arms up to be picked up.

  3. Lack of imitation - ​Children learn vocabulary by imitating words they hear in their environment. A child's lack of imitation of actions, sounds, and words is often a predictor of later language difficulty.  

  4. Limited babbling - Toddlers who were quiet as babies or showed very little babbling are at a greater risk of having difficulty with language development. 

  5. Family history - Research shows that there is a genetic component to speech and language delays. If there is a family history of a speech and/or language delay your child's risk of having a delay does increase to some extent. 


​Do Late Talkers need therapy?

A thorough assessment of your child's speech and language skills is necessary to determine what treatment approach will best meet the needs of your child. Toddlers who are late talkers but have no risk factors often do not require direct one-on-one therapy. These children are often serviced by training parents to implement specific language stimulation techniques in the home to help build their child's vocabulary. The child's vocabulary development is monitored through regular telephone consultations with in-office re-evaluations being conducted as needed. If pleasing progress is not being made then the child may be seen for regular, in-office therapy sessions.