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What You Should Know About Your Late Talking Toddler

Boys talk later than girls.

Her older sister talks for her.

We speak more than one language at home.

Do these sound familiar?

Late talkers are children who have good comprehension, but a limited number of spoken words. Research shows that 70-80% of late talkers will catch up to their peers. Those odds sound pretty good, right? Think about the reverse. This means that 20-30% of late talkers will not catch up to their peers. They will have persistent issues with language, reading, or writing that will affect them throughout life.

The purpose of early intervention is to catch those 20-30% of children who will not develop language appropriately on their own. When we meet a child, we don’t know if he will fall in that 20-30% of children who won’t catch up on their own, or in that 70-80% of the ones that will. This is why we recommend therapy for all late talkers.

Speech and language therapy for toddlers is not only for your child, it is for you. We are with your child for one or two sessions per week, but you are with your child every day. Parent and caregiver training is truly the key to a child’s success. Our goal is to empower you by giving you strategies to help your child at home.

Let’s bust these myths for the reasons why a child might be a late talker.

Boys talk later than girls - This is a widespread myth - boys should hit the same developmental milestones as girls, which include saying 1 word by age 1, and putting 2 words together by age 2.

Her older sister talks for her - You may have a chatty older child, but your younger one should still hit her language milestones.

We speak more than one language at home - Research says that learning more than one language is actually great for your child’s brain development and shouldn’t cause a language delay.

Tips for building language at home:

Minimize or eliminate screen time. Screen time is not recommended at all for children under the age of 2. As a mom of a 2.5 year old and a 7-month old, I understand that sometimes you just need few minutes to get things done, and it can feel impossible when you have two children at your feet. If you feel like it’s too hard to completely eliminate all screen time, then only use screen time when you are really need to, like for 15 minutes while you are preparing dinner. PSA: Educational TV shows and apps still count as screen time!

Play with your child. Remember that you are the best toy for your child. Your child will learn more from playing with you than with any toy you put in front of him.

Remember that communication is a two way street. Yes it’s important to talk to your child, but it is also important for your child to talk back. Don’t just talk to your child, but also give him the opportunity to participate in the conversation.

Jessie Ginsburg, M.S., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of Pediatric Therapy Playhouse, a multidisciplinary clinic in Los Angeles.

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