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Why We Shouldn't "Wait and See" with Late Talking Toddlers


"I didn't talk until I was 3."

“Boys talk later than girls.”

“Kids develop at their own pace.”

“You should wait and see what happens.”

Sound familiar?

A “late talker” is a toddler who has good comprehension, cognition, play and motor skills, but has a limited number of spoken words.

Research shows 70-80% of late talkers will catch up.

Sounds like pretty good odds, right?


This means 20-30% of late talkers will NOT catch up. They will have persistent language and literacy issues that could affect them academically and socially.

Why We Shouldn’t “Wait and See”

Research shows that the earlier a child receives help, the better his outcome will be.

“Parents will never regret acting early. They might, however, regret acting too late.” -Elaine Weitzman, speech-language pathologist and Executive Director of The Hanen Centre

References: Dale, P., Price, T., Bishop, D., & Plomin, R. (2003). Outcomes of early language delay: I. Predicting persistent and transient language difficulties at 3 and 4 years. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 544-560

Ellis EM, Thal DJ. (2008) Early language delay and risk for language impairment. Perspect Lang Learn Ed., 15(3): 93-100.

Girolametto, L., Pearce, P. S., & Weitzman, E. (1996). Interactive focused stimulation for toddlers with expressive vocabulary delays. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 39, 1274–1283.

Olswang, L.B., Rodriguez, B. & Timler, G. (1998). Recommending Intervention for Toddlers With Specific Language Learning Difficulties: We May Not Have All the Answers, But We Know a Lot. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 7, 23 - 32.

Rice, M. L., Taylor, C. L., & Zubrick, S.R. (2008). Language outcomes of 7-year-old children with or without a history of late language emergence at 24 months. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51, 394-407.

Rosetti, L.M. (1996). Communication intervention: Birth to three. San Diego: Singular Publishing.

Sharma M., Purdy, S.C. & Kelly, A.S. (2009). Comorbidity of auditory processing, language, and reading disorders. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 52(3),706-22.

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research (2008, May 16). Mixed Results For Late-talking Toddlers. ScienceDaily. 16 May 2008. Web. 10 Jun. 2011.

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