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Late Talkers

We see many “late talkers” in our speech clinic. The parents often ask about the cause behind late talking and have many questions, so I’m going to write a short blog post on late talking. Late talkers literally means they’re starting to talk late. Sometimes it’s due to a underlying medical problem and sometimes we don’t know the cause. In my experience when we have a late talker with no disabilities, there is usually a trend of late talking in the family. This child may have a sibling, parent, aunt, or uncle who was also a late talker.

I recently listened to a presentation by Dr. Stephen Camarata who specializes in this subject and I’m going to summarize his views on late talking on here. On average words come in around 12 months; although many kids say their first words earlier. We are usually concerned about kids and see them for speech therapy when their first words come in around 16-18 months. By the age of 2, kids typically know at least 100 words and start combining words to form sentences.


Do all late talkers need treatment? Research shows that if you select 100 late talkers at the age of 24 months (if
everything else is okay) the majority (50-70%) catch up by 3. Late talking by itself is not a consistent predictor of
developmental disability or even long term language ability. Some kids have the language but they’re waiting to activate it; meanwhile some of these kids are focusing on their visual spatial development
Is late talking a symptom of something else? As Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP), this is our
job to figure out. Parents should be looking to speak with an SLP if the kid is talking late to make sure there is not a problem that
is going to persist. You can ask your pediatrician to refer you to an SLP. The reason behind the late talking could be a communication disorder, an intellectual
disability, or autism spectrum disorders.Communication disorder
-Phonological/Speech/Articulation Disorder
-Language Disorder (Expressive and
-Social Communication/Pragmatic
-Intellectual Disability
slow learning
-Delayed onset of language and slow
rates of language acquisition (Many children with Down Syndrome have slow
learning along all domains)
-Autism Spectrum Disorder
motivation for social communication
behavior and restricted interestsFor more information on speech and language disorders, please visit the ASHA website. http://asha.org

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