how to help late talkers

How to Help Late Talkers


Late talkers are children who have difficulty communicating and expressing themselves verbally, compared to their peers. They tend to start talking later than other children, and may have trouble learning new words and expressing themselves coherently. Early identification and intervention are vital in addressing the problem and ensuring that the children receive the help they need.

Definition of Late Talkers

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association defines late talkers as children between 18 to 30 months old who use fewer words than expected for their age and stage of language development. Typically, toddlers should start speaking their first words by 12-15 months, develop a vocabulary of about 50 words by 18 months, combine two-word phrases by 24 months, and form sentences with three to four words by age three. Any delay beyond this timeline is usually an indication of a language or communication development issue.

The Importance of Early Identification and Intervention

Early identification of late talkers enables early intervention when treatment is likely to be most effective. Early speech therapy can help prevent the issue from escalating into severe language disorders, social difficulties in school settings, and emotional or behavioral problems stemming from frustration.

Common Causes of Late Talking

Late talking is often associated with a combination of physical, health, environmental factors that interact in complex ways. Some of these factors include:

Physical Factors

Late talkers may experience physical conditions such as hearing loss or oral motor dysfunction that impact their ability to produce sounds or articulate words correctly. Other physical factors include developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or autism.

General Health Conditions

Regular health issues like chronic ear infections or allergies may affect a child’s hearing abilities and pose difficulties in language acquisition. Factors such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and maternal substance abuse put children at risk of language and communication development issues.

Environmental Factors

Late talking may also be a result of environmental factors such as social and economic deprivation or a lack of exposure to stimulating language and cultural experiences. Neglect, abuse, or inadequate parenting can cause emotional stress on children, resulting in developmental delays.

Symptoms of Late Talking

Identifying the symptoms associated with late talkers can help parents recognize when their child may need intervention quickly.

Delays in Vocabulary Acquisition

Late talkers might not speak for long hours at times. When they do talk, their vocabulary might not increase with age ranges as expected. Some children may have difficulty remembering names of ordinary objects, labeling facial expressions or colors.

Poor Expression Skills

Late talkers may have trouble expressing themselves coherently and articulating words clearly. They may not use sentences beyond a few words to communicate thoughts and ideas.

Communication Difficulties

There may be instances where late talkers may struggle to initiate conversations or keep up with their peers’ pace while interacting. They might avoid certain social situations that require verbal abilities.

Assessment of Late Talkers

Diagnosing speech delays involve comprehensive evaluations by health professionals experienced in language development assessments.

Diagnosis by a Speech-Language Pathologist

The primary professional responsible for diagnosing speech delays is a speech-language pathologist (SLP). They evaluate the child’s language abilities by analyzing skills such as comprehension, expressive language development, articulation, and phonology. An SLP will conduct standardized tests to determine if the delay is within the normal range or whether it requires therapy. They will then create individualized treatment plans that respond to the child’s age, abilities, and specific language or communication needs.

Observation of Communication Development Milestones

Parents, guardians, teachers, and pediatricians can observe certain benchmarks for language development milestones. Tracking a child’s developmental progress can help determine whether they are experiencing a delay. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the Review Committee on Education to develop clear guidelines for doctors and health care providers to monitor children’s language development.

Medical Evaluation

In some cases, medical evaluations can also be helpful in identifying underlying medical conditions that may be impacting a child’s language development. The tests may involve hearing screenings, genetic testing, or other diagnostic tests as appropriate.

Therapy Options for Late Talkers

There are several therapy options for children with speech delays.

Language Stimulation Techniques

Language facilitation techniques are a standard approach in treating late talkers. They include strategies such as:

Language Facilitation

This technique helps to engage children and encourage them to attempt speech mimicking. It involves listening carefully to the child’s sounds while reinforcing correct articulations through positive feedback, prompting vocalizations through playful activities with objects or toys.

Parent Coaching

Parent coaching is an important aspect of any speech therapy program for late talkers. Parents learn how best to support their child’s unique learning style to facilitate the growth of communication skills. This method involves providing parents with personalized coaching on how they can help their children improve their language abilities by incorporating various everyday activities into their routines.

Articulation Therapy Techniques

Children who have difficulty with articulation may participate in drills targeting sound production and pronunciation. The specific treatments involve:

Word Approximations

This method involves introducing action words; such words are ideas that prompt motion when someone says them. Moving while saying such words helps engage children and stimulate their understanding of word and sound connections.

Speech Sound Drills

Speech sound drills aim to improve the child’s ability to produce specific sounds accurately. The therapist isolates specific sounds, like vowels or consonants, and teaches children how to produce them correctly while providing positive feedback for correct attempts.

Training Sessions for Parents

Parents have a substantial influence on their child’s language development. Early intervention programs can provide hands-on coaching and guidance on how parents can use play-based therapy activities at home with the support of a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

Language modeling

Language modeling involves repeating sentences and stories aloud so that children can begin to imitate what they hear naturally.

Play-based Therapy

Play-based therapy involves engaging children in fun games and activities while introducing new vocabulary and building up their language skills.

Early Intervention Plan for Late Talkers

Early intervention programs help late talkers receive treatment quickly and start progressing in their communication abilities. Programs usually involve collaboration between parents, teachers, caregivers, and other healthcare providers across different settings.

Parent Education on Language Development Milestones

Educating parents about language milestones is a crucial aspect of early intervention programs. Early education helps parents track the progress of their child’s language development, identify signs of a delay, and seek intervention services as needed.

Engagement in Age-Appropriate Activities

Late talkers require quality time interacting with people who understand their unique challenges and can stimulate language learning. Involving them in age-appropriate activities with other children give ample opportunities to practice social communication skills like taking turns or speaking up for needs among peers.

Creating a Language-Rich Environment

A language-rich environment exposes children to age-appropriate reading materials, spoken words, and other written resources to stimulate language learning consistently. Incorporating language development techniques, such as labeling objects or reading books aloud, can build a foundation for effective communication.

Developing a Communication Plan for Late Talkers

Once late talkers finish an intervention program, caregivers can work with healthcare providers and educators to develop communication plans. Communication plans outline specific goals and strategies on how late talkers can communicate efficiently across different settings, such as homes, schools, or social situations.

Working with Healthcare Providers, Educators, and Therapists to Create Goals

Collaboration with therapists helps develop a communication plan customized for the child’s needs. The treatment plan outlines the long-term goals of therapy services and the milestones that need to be reached at intervals. Healthcare providers assess if the child is meeting expected milestones by comparing them with development charts.

Creating Strategies to Support Communication Within Different Settings

Creating strategies to support communication within different settings such as home, school or social environments involves considering various factors. Among those factors are identifying listeners’ viewpoints or strategies that enable children to use cue cards to recognize words.

Tips for Parents Helping their Late Talkers at Home

Parents play a crucial role in their child’s communication development. Adopting positive parenting strategies that enhance language acquisition is beneficial in supporting their child’s progress.

Modeling Good Communication Skills

Modeling good communication skills involves repeating words back to children so they can understand proper sound production.

Encouraging Communication Attempts

Most importantly, parents must support their children fully as they learn new language skills by encouraging experimentation and providing opportunities for them to express themselves in various ways.

Providing Adequate Language Stimulation

Parent-child interactions involving storytelling, reading books, or any activity that allows consistent language stimulation nurtures connections in children’s brains and helps them grow into confident communicators.

Rehabilitation Options for Children with Severe Speech Delays or Disorders

While therapy can be effective for some late talkers, others need assistive technology and devices to communicate.

Assistive Technology and Devices

Assistive technology like electronic speech-generating devices (SGDs), picture exchange communication systems (PECS), or other computer-based applications provide an alternative way of verbal communication to children who have challenges producing speech.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices use symbols, pictures, or written words to help children communicate effectively. This method is useful in situations where ambient noise is high, making it difficult for verbal communication to be expressed.


Language development delays can occur due to several factors, but early intervention makes all the difference in addressing the issue. Parents should endeavor to work with healthcare providers at all levels to get their child diagnosed early and ensure that they are accessing language intervention programs fitted explicitly for their needs. Therapy options provided by SLPs are critical in helping late talkers communicate efficiently in their social settings.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to Help Late Talkers

1. What are some signs that a child is a late talker?

Some signs include limited vocabulary, inability to string together sentences, difficulty with phonetics or mimicking sounds, and not responding to verbal prompts or questions.

  • Parents may also notice that their child is not communicating as much as their peers.
  • This can be concerning to parents and caregivers who want their child to succeed.

2. What causes late talking?

There are many different factors that can contribute to a child being a late talker. Some possible causes include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Cognitive delays or disabilities
  • A lack of exposure to language
  • Anxiety or stress in the home environment
  • A history of chronic ear infections or other health issues

3. What can parents do at home to help their late talker?

There are several things parents can do at home to help encourage language development in their child:

  • Talk to your child frequently, using simple words and short sentences.
  • Encourage your child to mimic sounds and actions.
  • Read books together and point out objects and characters in the pictures.

4. When should I be concerned about my child’s lack of language development?

If your child is not communicating effectively by age two or three, it may be time to talk to your pediatrician about potential causes and interventions.

5. What are some professional resources for helping late talkers?

There are many different types of professionals who can help with language development in children, including:

  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Behavioral therapists
  • Pediatricians or other healthcare providers

6. What types of interventions can speech-language pathologists provide?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can provide a wide variety of interventions based on the individual needs of each child. Some possible interventions include:

  • Vocabulary-building exercises and activities
  • Sentence-building exercises and activities
  • Phonetics work to improve clarity of speech sounds
  • Play-based therapy to encourage engagement and communication skills

7. Is there anything I can do to prevent my child from becoming a late talker?

While there are no foolproof methods for preventing late talking, there are some things parents can do to encourage healthy language development:

  • Talking to your child frequently and using simple, clear language
  • Reading books together every day
  • Singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes together
  • Encouraging interaction with other children through playdates and socialization opportunities

keys takeaways

How to Help Late Talkers: 4 Key Takeaways

As a parent or caregiver, it can be concerning if a child is not meeting typical speech milestones. However, there are ways to help late talkers develop their language skills:

  1. Be patient and persistent. It may take time for a late talker to verbalize their thoughts, but don’t give up on them. Encourage them to communicate in any way they can, whether it’s through pointing, gestures, or noises.
  2. Create a language-rich environment. Speak to your child throughout the day about what you’re doing, what they’re doing, and anything else that comes to mind. Read books with your child and ask them questions about the pictures.
  3. Seek professional help if needed. If your child is not making progress with language development, it may be time to consult a speech-language therapist. They can provide exercises and strategies that can help your child improve their communication skills.
  4. Don’t compare your child to others. Every child develops at their own pace. Focus on your child’s progress and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

By following these tips, parents and caregivers can support late talkers in developing their language skills and ultimately thrive in their communication abilities.

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