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Late Talkers

Early developers are easy to spot. They’re the child who is speaking in sentences at one year of age, asking questions and naming all their colours and shapes. But when is a child with average developmental skills considered to be a ‘late talker’? Children can have well-developed skills in a wide range of areas developmental areas but be behind their peers when it comes to talking. Have you every been for a coffee with a friend only to have their child name the pictures in a book or engage you in a conversation? Has the experience left you wondering why your precious toddler is still using gestures and grunts to communicate?

When is a child considered to be a Late Talker?

There are many factors which need to be considered when assessing the speech and language development of all children. However, a simple rule of thumb is that children should:

  1. Make lots of babbling and cooing noises as an infant

  2. Start to say single words around 12 months of age

  3. Begin to use short phrases such as “Daddy car”, “More juice”, “Mummy go” between 18-24 months.

Children who are not meeting these milestones are at risk of being late talkers and should be seen by a Speech Pathologist as soon as possible.

What is the consequence of being a Late Talker?

Language is the basis of thinking and learning. How do you work through a problem, develop plans and strategies or learn new information? As adults we do this primarily through language. We use language to comprehend what we hear, store information in our memory and understand what we read. Children require well-developed language skills to develop their thinking, communicate with others, learn and develop literacy. It has been said that from 0-5 years children are busy learning language and from 5 years onwards they use language to learn. Children who are slower to develop their speech and language skills are at greater risk of being ‘left behind’ when it comes to thinking, learning and developing literacy in their preschool years and beyond.

How can a Speech Pathologist help?

Speech Pathologists are the professionals who can assess a child’s speech and language development. Before a child begins to use words and sentences, there are many foundational skills which must be developed. At Newcastle Speech Pathology we take a holistic view of a child’s communication. We consider:

  1. How and why the child is currently engaging with others

  2. Why the child is communicating and what motivates him

  3. What strategies he is using to communicate (e.g. looks, gestures, sounds)

  4. What pre-verbal and verbal skills she has

  5. How she responds to communication (understanding others, taking turns)

  6. The words and concepts the child understands and uses

  7. How are family dynamics contribute to the child’s communication skills

At Newcastle Speech Pathology we believe in working with families to give your child the best possible start in life. In line with current research we strongly recommend early intervention. The earlier a child’s communication issues are addressed the sooner the child will be able to ‘close the gap’ with their peers and be ready for the rigours of preschool.

Alison McDonald offers individual assessment and intervention support for Late Talkers and their families. She is a certified Hanen-trained Speech Pathologist in the It Takes Two To Talk programme (

To find out how you can support your Late Talker, read our post Helping Late Talkers.

Written by Alison Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology

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