Late Talkers and Speech Therapy

The book The Late Talker: What to Do if Your Child Isn’t Talking Yet (Agin, et al.) published this shocking statistic: “Sixteen million Americans have a speech or language disorder. An estimated 15 to 25 percent of young children and approximately forty-six million Americans have some kind of communication disorder (which includes hearing problems).” As a parent, you want to make sure your child doesn’t become part of that statistic!

Who Is a Late Talker?

A late talker qualifies as a child who is not following the developmental predictions for his/her age group. While it is important to note that while there is no hard timeline as to when a child should be forming complete and coherent sentences, there is definitely a guide to follow of the expected milestones that are widely accepted in the scientific community. Typically, a normally developing child is expected to say his/her first word in the first 18 months, be able to construct a simple sentence by age 2, and have a vocabulary of about 40-70 words at two and half years old.

Obviously, the rate of development varies widely from one child to another, but the numbers above can give parents an idea of where their child stands as compared to other toddlers of the same age. Also, some situations are more dire than others: for example, if your child is nearing her second birthday and has only been saying the words “no” and “yes”, you have much more reason to worry than if her vocabulary were only 30 words instead of the expected 50.

The Importance of a Speech-language Evaluation

In any case, it is understandable that parents of late talkers would have many apprehensions in response to the situation and would be eager to get their child on track as soon as possible. About one in four children display signs of delayed speech during their early years of life – so it’s not a rare problem by any means. The good news, however, is that there are speech professionals dedicated to dealing with this very issue! Therefore, we cannot overstress the importance of scheduling a hearing evaluation for your child as soon as you notice that there might be a problem.

A speech-language evaluation is absolutely necessary in order to help determine the cause(s) of the delay in speech. Though parents may know their child best, a certified and trained speech therapist knows the development of speech acquisition best, so s/he is in a much better position to pinpoint specific symptoms and their likely corresponding diagnoses.

Problems that may lead to delayed speech in toddlers often include – but are not limited to – oral impairments with the physical structure of the tongue or palate (roof of the mouth) or oral-motor problems, which means that the part of the brain responsible for speech production is not functioning properly. Feeding difficulties may also be associated with either of these conditions. Finally, the cause of the speech delay could also be attributed to a hearing problem or related to an ear infection.

During a speech-language evaluation, the speech therapist will do the following:

Observe your child’s speech and language skills within the context of his/her overall development

Utilize a number of effective standardized tests and scales to evaluate how responsive your child is to certain stimuli and if s/he is on par with the milestones usually achieved for his/her age group

Listen for sound development and clarity of speech

Examine your child’s oral-motor development

Responding to the Results of the Evaluation

At the end of the speech-language evaluation, the speech therapist will address your concerns, discuss the findings, and figure out if your child would benefit from speech therapy sessions. At this point, your involvement as the parent is very important. If you are cooperative and collaborative in your approach, you will have an easier time dealing with your child’s late talking in the most effective way possible. Remember that early treatment during the “critical period” has repeatedly generated better results than remedial intervention later on.

Addressing Speech Delay with Chicago Speech Therapy

Our practice is dedicated to helping children especially overcome any speech difficulties during the early years of life in order to avoid the negative consequences of inaction.

If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by calling 312-399-0370 or by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page.

Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. The practice she founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at top Children’s Hospitals and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.