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What is a "Late Talker"?

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

We have all heard the phrase “late talker”... but who is considered to be a late talker?

According to the Hanen Centre*, “A “Late Talker” is a toddler (between 18-30 months) who has a 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.”

If a two-year-old can understand language, ride a tricycle and engage in play with peers, but only has a few true words and isn’t combining words yet, they could be considered a late talker.

Parents can be very confused by varying information regarding when their child should start “talking,” mainly because there is a lot of differing information circulating. Trust us, it’s not just your mother-in-law mentioning on a daily basis what her kids were doing at this age!

Here are some examples of things parents have heard:

  • Girls start speaking earlier than boys.

  • My child began speaking in sentences before they were one!

  • Anna’s son started speaking when he was three and now he’s a doctor.

  • Kids should start speaking by one or they may have Autism.

Some parents are able to easily overhear information and move on without stressing about it. Others can have a difficult time sleeping until they hear more concrete information.

Some parents may be okay with waiting patiently until their child catches up.

Others need to seek out the help of professionals before they feel their child is okay.

Remember one thing - there is no right or wrong way of parenting. What is right for your family, may not be right for others. Try to lessen judgment on yourself and have empathy, just as you would for others.

It is true that some children will catch up on their own, however, there are some that don’t and require the help of an SLP to aid in language development. The “wait and see” approach may not be appropriate especially if there is a history of risk factors that could lead to delayed language. Early intervention is KEY! If more than one risk factor applies to your child, it is important to seek help as early as possible. The bottom line is, seeking help won’t hurt your child, even if they don’t end up needing it. However, waiting too long for early intervention is precious time that you can’t get back.

For more on risk factors and when to seek the help of a speech language pathologist, click here.


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