Is my child a late talker (late language emergence) or late bloomer? This ALWAYS seems to be the question of the hour.
This is BY FAR the MOST COMMON question I get from clients, friends, family, and literally people off the street. If a child isn't talking by 1.5 - 2 years of age, there is an overwhelming panic!
Some people fear the worst and some people simply say "he will outgrow it" or "she is just a late bloomer." Now, I'm here to tell you that EVERYONE is right. Some kids are just late bloomers, but some kids have late language emergence or are "late talkers."
Without a comprehensive speech and language evaluation by a qualified speech language pathologist, it is almost impossible to be able to pinpoint if a child has a delay/disorder or is developing right on track but those first words are just slow.
Even for speech language pathologists, the answers aren't always clear. However, there can be some risk factors to consider when deciding if a child is a late talker and DOES require speech therapy or a child is just a late bloomer and CAREFULLY monitoring progress by a professional is the way to go (while supplementing with lots of home language strategies, of course - they can't hurt!)
Children who have a family history of late talkers, specific language impairments, or really any speech/language disorder have a higher likelihood of also having similar disorders. Researchers believe genetics may play a large role in speech and language disorders.
However, this is just MY OPINION that occurred to me in this moment as I write this...I wonder if there is some nurture (nature vs nurture) component as well. If a parent(s) have some sort of language disorder, he/she may raise a child differently. The child might be exposed to less varied vocabulary or just less language in general (talk less during the day). The parent's interests might be less language based - long walks in nature, gardening, etc... Anyone have thoughts on this?
Research has shown that if children have strong receptive language skills (understanding), they have a greater chance of being a late bloomer and they might "catch up" with time. However, this isn't a diagnostic indicator. Even if a child has good receptive language but not talking, a speech-language screening or evaluation is still recommended!
It is a good sign if a child, who is not saying many words, uses gestures and/or signs to communicate needs/wants/ideas. This pre-verbal communication skill indicates that the child wants and knows how to communicate (by any form) and understands the concept of communication.
This is an IMPORTANT one especially for speech pathologists who are monitoring a child's speech and language progress over time. It is CRUCIAL that a child continues to improve/increase use of functional vocabulary (variety of nouns and verbs), expressive grammar skills, and mean length of utterance EACH MONTH. If there is a plateau in progress, therapy may be needed.
Males are 3 times more likely to have late language emergence ( Zubrick et al., 2007. Sorry boys!
This is kind of an obvious one! If a child is evaluated at the age of 18 months and has a delay, it is better than a child who is 2.5 or older and has a language delay. As the child gets older, language expectations increase exponentially and any delay will have a great impact on all sorts of developmental areas. Also, if a child STILL has a delay after 3, he/she is most likely not just a late bloomer. There is something going on!
A child who has delayed speech and language development as well as delayed motor development has a greater chance of having late language emergence instead of just being a late bloomer! (Klee et al., 1998; Rescorla & Alley, 2001)
If, after a thorough evaluation, you believe your child or your client is just a late bloomer, then carefully monitoring progress over time is ESSENTIAL!
You want to make sure the child is improving speech, vocabulary, and grammar skills each month. If there is a plateau in progress or progress is too slow, speech therapy may be needed.
In the meantime, it is a good idea to implement these strategies at home TODAY
Or buy our Toddler Talk eBook for a step-by-step guide to really jump start your child's language skills!
If your child has a language disorder or language delay, breathe... You got this!
You need to schedule speech therapy and find the RIGHT therapist for your child. It is okay to try a few to find the right match.
Make sure to ask the right questions before beginning treatment!
Reference: Late Language Emergence. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Late-Language-Emergence/