Speech TherapyEducationToddler

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.

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