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Late Talkers

Many parents contact Kids Talk because their toddler is not yet talking. Parents are aware that their child is behind in reaching language milestones but they are often told that their child will 'grow out of it'. The stages of expressive language development are very consistent however the range of 'normal' within those stages is quite large. This can be very confusing for parents.


A good place to start is to look at age-appropriate vocabulary milestones.


  • 18 month old children should have a minimum vocabulary of 20 words which will be mostly nouns but may include some other types of words such as 'no', 'more', 'bye', 'uh-oh'


  • 24 month old children should have a minimum of 50 single words which include a variety of nouns (e.g., ball, cup, juice), verbs (e.g., go, eat), prepositions (e.g., in, out) and adjectives (e.g., big, hot). They should also be combining two words together (e.g., baby eat).


A significant amount of research has been conducted in the area of early language development. We know that many late talkers will catch up to their peers on their own however some children will not. The following are known risk factors which may suggest that a child will not catch up on their own. 


  1. Weak understanding of language - A child who struggles with understanding language is more likely to have a true language delay than to be a late talker.
  2. Limited gestures - Long before a child begins to speak he communicates by using gestures, facial expressions, and vocalizations. If your toddler does not use gestures as a means to communicate he is at a greater risk of having continued language difficulties. Early gestures may include: waving, clapping, pointing, shaking head 'no', hands up and out for 'where?', arms up to be picked up, tapping the floor to 'tell' you to sit down beside him.
  3. Lack of imitation - Children learn vocabulary by imitating words they hear in their environment. A child's lack of imitation of actions, sounds and words is often a predictor of later language difficulty.
  4. Limited babbling - Toddlers who were quiet as babies or showed limited babbling are at a greater risk of having difficulty with speech and language development.
  5. Family history - Research shows that there is a genetic component to speech and language delays. If there is a family history of speech and/or language delay your child's risk of having a delay does increase to some extent.



Do you have more questions?

If you have concerns about your toddler's first words please feel free to call the office. Your questions are always welcome! A quick phone consultation may help to determine if an assessment is necessary.