How to Know If Your Child Is a Late Talker

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Did you know that an estimated 15% to 25% of young children have a type of communication disorder?

Children are often considered to be late talkers if they are speaking less than 10 words by the age of 18 to 20 months, or fewer than 50 words by the age of 30 months. Keep reading to discover more about late-talking children and whether your child is a late talker or not.

What Is a Late Talker?

A late talking toddler is often one who says less than 50 words by the age of 2 years old. Another defining feature of a late-talking child is one who can’t combine words by the age of 2. This is compared to an average 2-year-old child who has around 300 words in their vocabulary and is able to put them together in short sentences.

Late-talking children isn’t always a bad sign or a sign that your child won’t be able to speak properly as they grow. However, the sooner you identify late talking children the better because then you can give or get them the help they need.

Often about half of all late talkers are able to catch up to their peers and by kindergarten, their language skills are in the average range for their age group. This may be acknowledged as a language delay, as opposed to an impairment. Language impairment is often diagnosed in later years when children are at preschool or elementary school.

Why Are Some Children Late Talkers?

Late talker or speech delay? This is often the first question parents ask when they are wondering why their child hasn’t spoken much. But there are many reasons why your child might be a late talker or why their speech is delayed.

There are certain genetic disorders such as Downs syndrome that makes speech delayed for children. Autism might also be why a child’s speech is delayed.

However, late talkers often have typical vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive skills. Parents may worry, but with time and help, your child will be able to develop their language skills.

How to Spot Signs That Your Child Is a Late Talker

Spotting the signs that your child might be a late talker is pretty easy to do and it starts way before their first word. You should be able to track your baby’s development by their milestones, which may differ from child to child, but you can follow this as a general guideline:

3-6 Months

Babies of around 3 months should be able to recognize your voice, smile when you appear, make cooing noises, and make different crying noises for different needs. By 6 months old, your baby should be able to babble and make different sounds, move his/her eyes in the direction of sounds, notice toys that make a sound, pay attention to music, and use his/her voice to show happiness or sadness.

Babies that are babbling by 7-8 months might be showing early signs that they are late talkers.

12 Months

By the end of a baby’s first year of life, they should be able to understand simple instructions, recognize words for common objects, be trying to imitate speech sounds, and be able to say basic words or sounds such as mama or dada. 

Most children will have typically spoken a word by the age of nine to 15 months. So if your child hasn’t spoken any word by the time he/she is 15 months old, this might be a sign that your child is a late talker. 

18 to 24 Months

The general milestones for 18-month-olds are that they can follow simple directions with gestures, can say about 10 words, and can recognize the name of common people, body parts, and objects.

At 24-months-old, your child should be able to say simple phrases, have a vocabulary of around 50 words, and follow simple commands and answer simple questions. A baby this age should also be able to speak well enough to be understood by you or their primary caregiver for at least 50% of the time.

What Should I Do With My Late Talking Child?

There are a variety of things you can do if you suspect your child might be a late talker. The first thing you need to do is not to worry and to be patient with their language skills. Every child develops at his/her own pace and with plenty of encouragement and help, he/she will likely be able to overcome their language difficulties.

Reading to your child at least 5 minutes every day is a great way to encourage late talkers to start speaking. Try starting this when your baby is around 6-8 months old and keep up regular reading. 

Use language to communicate with your child in everyday scenarios. When your baby is very young, you can start talking to him/her to help develop their communication and language skills. For example, you can narrate what you are doing using basic and simple language. 

Keeping a diary of your baby’s speech milestones can be a useful practice and help show you where he/she is at. Having a point of reference, such as words or noises your baby has made, may also be useful if you need to speak to a pediatrician about your baby’s development. 

Another way you can help your child is by correcting their language with basic words. Avoid imitating baby talk and instead correct their language, this will help them learn the correct words faster.

If none of the above helps your child develop the language skills they should have, then your pediatrician may refer you and your child to a professional who can conduct a speech evaluation

Get Your Children Talking

Knowing the signs of a late talker can help you get the necessary help for your child. That’s why it’s important to note milestones and communicate regularly with your child. Try not to panic if you think your child is a late talker, instead try to help them through their speech delay and if that doesn’t help seek the help of a professional.

Remember to read some of our other health-related articles to find out more tips and tricks to ensure better health for you and your family.


Sasha Duncan is a bookworm, fashion enthusiast and a consultant for Palmaira, a supplier of the best Menorca sandals Australia has to offer. She loves reading crime novels and being with her dogs, Maya and Buster.

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