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Helping Late Talkers

Late Talkers are those children whose speech and language skills are not developing in line with their peers. Typically these children are identified by 18 – 24 months of age when it is noted that they have a limited vocabulary and they are not beginning to put words together to make short sentences. If your child fits this description then it is strongly recommended that you seek a speech and language assessment by a Speech Pathologist. At Newcastle Speech Pathology we work with families to help children reach their language and learning potential.

Strategies to help your Late Talker

  1. 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?

  2. Join them in their play. Be careful not to become the director of the playtime. Follow their lead.

  3. 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.

  4. If your child does not initiate interaction then “crash” their play (e.g. put 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 some more and see how they react. When you have a reaction keep the interaction going.

  5. 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 as the door you can make a comment e.g. “You hear Daddy coming.”

  6. Ask a question. Be careful not to fall into the role of ‘tester’, continually requesting your child to demonstrate their knowledge e.g. “What’s this?”, “Can you say ball?” Instead ask open questions or offer your child a choice of responses e.g. “Do you want the juice or the milk?” When in doubt, try turning your questions into comments. “Where’s the dog?” could become “There’s the dog. It’s a brown dog”. Now you are showing your interest in what the child is naturally interested in. You are adding language and expanding on concepts for your child.

  7. Offer your child choices. This could be choice of activities, choice of snacks, or a choice in the order of an established 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. A child who feels they have choices will not become as easily frustrated as a child who feels he has no control within his world. Offering choices gives your child an opportunity to think and expand his or her ideas.

  8. Talk about what you are doing with your child. When you are 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?

  9. 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.

  10. Read, read, read. Don’t worry too much about the text, simply talk about the pictures. Tell the story by looking at the pictures. Allow your child to jump to the page they are most interested 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 engaging with your child. If your child is a Late Talker then 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 lifestyle.

Alison is a certified Hanen-trained Speech Pathologist and DIR Floortime proponent. (,

See also Late Talkers.

Written by Alison Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology

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