Friday, July 19, 2013

FAQ Friday: Late Talkers

It's Friday!  Unfortunately, I've only got like 2 more free Fridays before school starts back up.  Sigh... I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

It's FAQ time.  Today's question is brought to you by a friend who is a parent of a toddler.  She wants to know if it's normal that her child isn't speaking yet.

Most parents with concerns about their children will ask other parents their opinions.  I've listened in on some of these conversations.  They usually go something like:
      Parent: Sally is 2 and she doesn't really talk yet.  How old were your kids when they started talking?
      Friend 1: Oh don't worry!  Johnny didn't talk until he was 3, and he turned out just fine. 
      Friend 2: Yeah, enjoy it now.  Soon, you won't be able to shut her up! 
      Friend 3: I'm sure she'll outgrow it.  Just be patient.

While this advice may be well-intended, you can't really know for sure if your kid is on the right track just by listening to the opinions of other parents.  Concerns regarding your child's communication skills should be directed to a speech-language pathologist, and often a formal evaluation is necessary.

In order to know if something is not normal, you need a good sense of what is.  Here are a few milestones to keep in mind:
  • Children usually say their first meaningful word around 12 months, about the time they take their first steps.
  • Between the ages of 1 and 2, your child should be picking up more and more words consistently.
  • At 24 months, most kids have about 100 words and are putting 2 words together.
Now, sometimes a child will very well "catch up" on their own if they begin talking late.  However it's often hard to know which kids will or won't, so typically a language evaluation is in order.  There are some "red flags" that are considered to reveal a child who may have language difficulties.  Check out these risk factors posted by Lauren Lowry at the Hanen Center:
  • quiet as an infant; little babbling
  • a history of ear infections
  • limited number of consonant sounds (eg. p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
  • does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
  • does not imitate (copy) words
  • uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
  • difficulty playing with peers (social skills)
  • a family history of communication delay, learning or academic difficulties
  • a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
  • uses few gestures to communicate
If a child's receptive language or ability to "take in" language is age-appropriate, that's usually a good sign.  However, not being able to communicate effectively as a toddler can be frustrating for both you and the child.  As a parent, you don't have to just "wait and see" if your child catches up.  It's never too early to consult an SLP for a screening or formal evaluation to make sure.

Sources for some of this information as well as some great articles about this topic include:
ASHA: Late Blooming or Language Problem
How to tell if Your Child is a Late Talker
A Closer Look at the Late Talker Study

Remember, keep talking and reading to your child.  Provide opportunities for them to make requests and imitate words.  Speak slowly using short simple sentences, and always show them love and support no matter their difficulties.



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