Late Language Emergence

Late language emergence, more commonly known as late talker, occurs when there is a delay in onset of language and the child has no other disabilities or delays. There doesn’t appear to be a cause. 

About 10-20% of 2-year-olds are considered a late talker. 

Late Language Emergence Overview

Risks Factors For Late Language Emergence

Risk factors DON’T mean that a child will have late language emergence. Risk factors are NOT causes. 

Common Risk Factors:

  • Delayed motor development
  • Low birth weight/premature birth
  • Family history of late talkers
  • Mother’s level of education
  • Lower SES status

To combat these risk factors (there are always things you can do to help) you can try:

  • Receive good pre- and post- natal care
  • Expose a child to vocabulary, grammar, and varied social situations
  • Create responsive learning environments
  • READ, READ, READ with your child
  • Create structured and unstructured play opportunities (both are equally important)
  • Enroll in speech therapy if needed
  • Create alternative communication systems such as use of visuals, sign language, and/or gestures

What does a late talker look like?

Contrary to popular belief, being a late talker is more than not just saying words.

A child who is a late talker or has late language emergence may have any of the following characteristics:

  • Delayed vocabulary acquisition: fewer than 50 words by 24 months of age
  • No 2-word combinations by 24 months of age
  • Decreased use of gestures
  • Slow development of sentence structure
  • Use of shorter mean length of utterance (MLU)
  • Delayed articulation development
  • Difficulty with language comprehension
  • Immature phonological development

Will my child just catch up?

This is a loaded question that is difficult to answer. Many parents wonder, is my child a late talker or is my child just a late bloomer?

Some quick tips:

  • Usually, late bloomers use more gestures to communicate in the absences of expressive language
  • Late bloomers rarely have any delays in language comprehension

If you want more detailed information on this topic, please refer to our late bloomer page. 

Bilingual Considerations

I live in a bilingual home and I am raising my children to be bilingual. I also had a son with late language emergence. So, I GET IT! Read about updates on my family here. 

If your child is bilingual, the one take-home message I want you to remember is being bilingual DOES NOT CAUSE A CHILD TO BE A LATE TALKER, EVER! Read more about being a late talker and bilingual here!

So PLEASE don’t use only one language. Being bilingual will HELP!

  • For more information on being a late talker and bilingual, click here.
  • For tips raising a bilingual child, click here.
  • To learn the basics on bilingualism and children, click here

Late Language Emergence Evaluation

To confirm if a child is a late talker, you need to schedule an evaluation. 

To learn what an evaluation for a late talker looks like and what to expect, click here: Late Talker Evaluation page.

Late Talker Therapy Techniques

Many parents wonder what a speech-language pathologist can do when their child isn’t even talking yet. The answer is... well quite a lot.

Click on our late talker therapy page to learn about all the research-based therapy techniques out there today!

What you can do today!

Now, we are getting to the good stuff. What can you do about it!

There is actually A LOT you can do. 

Okay, now you are ready for the games.

  • Check out our favorite late talker games
  • Consider our eBooks series!!! These will TRULY help!!! Toddler Talk 2.0 is for children who are only saying a few words. START HERE. You will learn how to encourage those first words.
  • If your child is saying over 50 words, consider Toddler Talking 2.0. It is the boost your child needs!


Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series

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