At What Age Do Late Talkers Talk?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021

Late talkers are toddlers (18 to 30 months old) who have a limited vocabulary for their age, but do not have any other developmental delays. Some late talkers may talk by three to five years of age.
Late talkers are toddlers (18 to 30 months old) who have a limited vocabulary for their age, but do not have any other developmental delays. Some late talkers may talk by three to five years of age.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), late talkers are toddlers (18 to 30 months old) who have a limited vocabulary for their age, but do not have any other developmental delays. Some late talkers may talk by three to five years of age. These toddlers are called late bloomers. To distinguish late talkers from late bloomers, studies have shown that late bloomers use more gestures to communicate their needs compared to late talkers.

Late talking can also be a sign of a learning disability, autism spectrum disorder, social communication disorder and language impairment.

How can you identify if your child is a late talker?

A child with the following risk factors may suggest that they are more likely to have continuing language difficulties, which include

  • Silent as an infant or little babbling
  • History of ear infections
  • A limited number of consonant sounds, such as p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g
  • Fails to link ideas and actions together while playing
  • Fails to imitate words
  • Uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things) and few verbs (action words)
  • Difficulty playing with peers (social skills)
  • A family history of communication delay, learning or academic difficulties
  • A mild understanding delay for their age
  • Uses few gestures to communicate
  • Prefers using gestures to communicate rather than words

If your child has a limited vocabulary along with the above risk factors, you should definitely consult a speech-language pathologist.

What are the signs of speech and language delay in a particular age group?

Look out for the following signs of developmental delays in infants and toddlers:

By three to four months

  • Does not respond to loud noises
  • Does not babble or make cooing noises
  • Begins babbling, but does not try to imitate sounds

By seven months

  • Does not respond to sounds

By one year

  • Does not say any words, such as mama
  • Does not understand instructions, such as bye-bye or no

By two years

  • Cannot speak at least 15 words
  • Does not use two-word phrases without repeating and can only imitate speech
  • Does not use words to communicate more than immediate needs

How can you help your late talkers?

Apart from taking them to a speech-language therapist, you can also help late talkers develop speech and language skills by following these tips:

  • Sign language has been proven to improve speech development.
  • Sing to your child. Sometimes the rhythm of music may make more sense to your child.
  • Encourage imitation of sounds and gestures. Imitate every sound that your child makes.
  • Talk with your child about everyday routine. For example, while changing their diapers, tell them, “Look, I am changing your diaper. Next, I will clean you up.”
  • Start reading to your child early. Look for age-appropriate books that stimulate the child’s brain.
  • Play with your child often. Play is an ideal way to encourage an exchange of ideas with young children.

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References
Kids Health: "Delayed Speech or Language Development." https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/not-talk.html

The Hanen Centre: "How to Tell if Your Child is a Late Talker – And What to Do About It." http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/How-to-Tell-if-Your-Child-is-a-Late-Talker-%E2%80%93-and-W.aspx#

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