A ‘Late Talker’ is a toddler (between 18-30 months) who has good understanding of language, typically developing play skills, motor skills, thinking skills, and social skills, but has a limited spoken vocabulary for his or her age. The difficulty late talking children have is specifically with spoken or expressive language. This group of children can be very puzzling because they have all the building blocks for spoken language, yet they don’t talk or talk very little.
Researchers have yet to agree upon an explanation for this specific delay. They have determined, though, that Late Talkers are more likely to have a family history of early language delay, to be male, and to have been born at less than 85% of their optimal birth weight or at less than 37 weeks’ gestation. It has also been determined that approximately 13% of two-year-olds are late talkers.
What is typical for a young child’s speech?
- 18 month olds should use least 20 words, including different types of words, such as nouns (“baby”, “cookie”), verbs (“eat”, “go”), prepositions (“up”, “down”), adjectives (“hot”, “sleepy”), and social words (“hi”, “bye”).
- 24 month olds should use at least 100 words and combine 2 words together. These word combinations should be generated by the child, and not be combinations that are “memorised chunks” of language, such as “thank you”, “bye bye”, “all gone”, or “What’s that?”. Examples of true word combinations would be “doggie gone”, “eat cookie”, or “dirty hands”.
If you have concerns about your child’s speech it is important to seek advice. If your child attends nursery, speak to their special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). They will be able to organise a speech and language assessment from a speech and language therapist. This assessment will provide insight into your child’s speech difficulties and will allow nursery to plan and prepare for your child’s transition to school. Speech and language assessments are also available privately.
Parents and carers can also help children to develop their language. Exposing your child to lots of different experiences and people will allow for them to be immersed in new language and sounds. As parents, we often respond to our children’s wants too quickly, cutting their sentences short. This can lead to children not needing to expand their vocabulary. Also, setting aside a ‘special time’ to work on activities (such as these in this pack) each day will support your child in developing new words and sounds.
How can I help my child to talk more?
- Aim to complete one speaking activity with your child daily.
- Different members of your family can complete the activities to add variety.
- Set aside 5-10 minutes per day to complete the activities.
- Make the activities fun and enjoy the time with your child.
- Keep notes on how your child interacts with the activity to share with professionals if needed.
The SEN Expert has a downloadable ‘Late Talkers Activity Pack’ which provides ten easy to use activities that will help your child – be sure to check it out!
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