Just a Late Talker, or Something More?
You’re at the playground with your toddler enjoying the day when another toddler, who looks about the same age as yours comes up. You smile, and without prompting this toddler tells you their name, their favorite color, and what they ate for lunch. A series of thoughts goes through your head. Is that child possessed? How old are they? My kid only says “up” and a few other things. Next comes the mom guilt. Is there something wrong with my child? Am I not doing a good enough job? Why aren’t they talking? Stop right there, friend.
Most parents know that we expect kids to say their first word by 12 months. But after that, the milestones aren’t exactly common knowledge. Yes, some children are advanced. And yes, some children are late bloomers. But overall, there’s a general timeline of when we expect kids to hit their speaking milestones. For a general reference, I use the chart below.
So, what if your child hasn’t met these milestones? Step one: don’t panic. Many children fall into the category of “late talkers.” There are many reasons that a child may not be talking. None of them are your fault or your child’s fault. Some kids just aren’t ready. Some kids need that extra push from a speech pathologist. Some kids may have other delays going on that are impacting their ability to communicate. Whatever the reason (and often, we don’t exactly know), step two is to contact a professional.
Your pediatrician is a good place to start, but sometimes I find their “wait and see” approach to be off base. A speech pathologist specializes in communication. We know what to look for and we know how to help. Of course, you are the expert on your child—you know what is best! But when it comes to communication, we know what’s up.
Whatever you decide to do, earlier is better. Research shows that children who receive early intervention for speech and language needs are more likely to catch up to their peers than children who get help later on. By stepping in as soon as you think your child is behind, you are giving them the best possible chance to become and effective communicator.
So my suggestion, as a speech language pathologist, is if you think your child is not where they should be, get them a speech eval! We may find out that everything is fine and no intervention is necessary, or we may find out that with some speech therapy your little one will be right where they’re supposed to be. Either way, it certainly won’t hurt to touch base with a professional.