A ‘Late Talker’ is a child whose speech and language skills aren’t developing in line with their peers.
Usually these children are identified by 18 - 24 months of age, when parents or caregivers notice that the child has a limited vocabulary and trouble putting words together to make short sentences.
If your child fits this description, we strongly recommend you seek a speech and language assessment by a Speech Pathologist. We also hope that you find the following strategies helpful!
Here are ten strategies that you can use to help your Late Talker:
Enter your child's world by observing them in play. What are they interested in? How do they like to spend their time? Where is their attention focused?
Join them in their play. Be careful not to become the director of the playtime, but instead, follow their lead.
Wait and see if your child will initiate some form of communication - a look, gesture or sound. Respond to your child and wait to see if they will take another turn with gestures, sounds or words.
If your child does not initiate interaction, you can try to "crash" their play (e.g. interrupt by putting a road block in the path of a car that is doing laps of the lounge room floor, or have a toy ask for help building the block tower). Wait and see how they react. When you have a reaction, try to keep the interaction going.
Add meaning to what your child says and does. If your child makes a grunting noise while pointing to the toy bus, you could say: "Oh, you want the bus!" If your child hears a noise and looks towards the door, you can make a comment like "You hear someone coming."
Ask a question. Be careful not to fall into the role of 'testing' your child by continually asking them to demonstrate their knowledge (e.g. "What's this?" or "Can you say ball?"). Instead, ask open questions or offer your child a choice of responses. For example: "Do you want the juice, or the milk?" When in doubt, try turning your questions into comments. For example, "Where's the dog?" could become "There's the dog. It's a brown dog!". Now, you’re adding language and expanding on concepts that your child is naturally interested in.
Offer your child choices. This could be a choice of activities, choice of snacks, or a choice about how to order a routine. (e.g. "Would you like to read the book on the couch or on the floor?", "Do you want the sultanas or the banana?", "Should we change your nappy or brush your teeth?"). Offering choices is a powerful way to allow your child an element of control over their environment. It engages them in communication, and encourages positive behaviour. Offering choices gives your child an opportunity to think and expand his or her ideas.
Talk about what you are doing with your child. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the car, at the shops, or folding the washing, there is so much you can be talking about! Talk about what your child can see, hear, smell, feel or taste. What is your child holding? How do you use it? What parts does it have? What does it look like? Where does it belong?
Include your child in everyday activities. The more time you spend doing everyday things with your child, the more opportunities you have to engage, teach new words, and create shared memories.
Read, read, read! Don't worry too much about the text - simply talking about the pictures is a great start. Allow your child to jump to the page they are most interested in, and talk about what your child is looking at. Make sure you balance your questions with plenty of comments so that your child does not feel as though he is constantly being tested.
These are a few strategies to get you started with engaging your child with language. If your child is a Late Talker, we strongly suggest that you contact a Speech Pathologist to discuss your child's speech and language development.
At Newcastle Speech Pathology we can assess your child's speech, language and communication skills and provide you with an intervention plan to meet your child's language and communication needs. We specialise in personalised, individual therapy which is targeted to the needs of your child and suited to your family’s lifestyle.
You can also check out our blog post At What Age is a Child Considered To Be a ‘Late Talker’?
Newcastle Speech Pathology