'Late talkers' usually catch up without other problems
July 4th, 2011
12:26 AM ET

'Late talkers' usually catch up without other problems

Up to 18% of children worldwide are so-called "late talkers" but most of them develop language skills by the time they enter kindergarten, according to a study in the latest edition of Pediatrics.

In an effort to examine possible psychological problems in children who are slower to develop their verbal skills, Australian researchers looked at whether language delay at age 2 could be linked to other behavioral problems later in childhood and adolescence.

Most parents know the relationship between ages and stages in a child's growth. But pediatricians say young children develop differently, especially when it comes to walking and talking.

Your child's developmental stages

Before this study, research had shown that certain behaviors, along with slow speech development, may lead to other problems as a child gets older.

In the Australian study, investigators followed more than 2,800 families from childbirth through the 17th birthday and tracked behavioral and emotional development. Researchers found children who were late talkers had, at age 2,  a slightly higher level of behavioral and emotional problems than tots who were already talking. But the majority of late talkers were at no greater risk of developing emotional problems later on in life.

Study authors concluded these findings support a wait-and-see approach for late talkers with otherwise normal development. But they also noted the previous scientific evidence linking persistent language problems with issues such as shyness, fearfulness, and disruptive behavior, as precursors to more serious psychosocial problems as children get older.

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soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Gail

    PS You can't shut her up, now, either.

    July 5, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Drome

      I didnt start talking until I was 13 years old. My first words were a complete recitation of pi.

      July 25, 2011 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  2. OvernOut

    My kids were all very early talkers (two-word sentences at 9 months) and very late walkers (15 months), they ended up as distance runners with plenty of breath.

    July 5, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blacksheep

      15 months is not "very late" for walking. It is actually average. The range for walking is 9-18 months. Even an 18 month walker is not "very late" but within the range of normal.

      July 5, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
  3. Sherri

    My son was a late talker (no words until he was almost 3) but early walker (8 months). But the reason why these kids have behavioral problems is because they cannot communicate their needs and wants to you, it's not rocket science! It is a frustrating experience for both parent and child. The speech therapist suggested sign language and it worked like a charm. But now he is about to enter kindergarten and taks just fine... no behavioral problems either. And yes, you can't shut him up now either, but I will take that rather than the alternative!

    July 5, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. mw

    I have a nephew who was a late talker. His parent's were super worried about him, but by the time he was 6 he had read the first 2 Harry Potter books on his own (that's super advanced for his age, in case you didn't know). He's an extremely bright kid! However, I also have a good friend who's son was slow to talk, and I'm pretty sure he's a dud. It might now be indicative of a problem, but it might. Best to look into it either way!

    July 5, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Leah

    For all of you bragging about your late talker who later excelled – I know you mean well and may be trying to keep parents of late talkers from worrying – but you may want to limit your advice that late talkers grow up to be just fine. Using the wait and see approach can cause irreparable harm to those late talkers who DO need help. It's better to be safe than sorry than to delay treatment. The earlier one starts intervention, the better. Not all late talkers end up to be Einstein.

    July 5, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sheila

    Late talkers – do not wait . You can always contact your local Infants and Toddlers program to have your child evaluated free of charge. Early Intervention works. Thanks

    July 5, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Keleigh

    I would take this article with a grain of salt. Late talking is a red flag for autism, along with a few other markers. As a teacher and a parent of a child with autism, I did not wait and see if he would say "Mamma" at two years old. Early childhood intervention centers can evaluate your child to see if it is really nothing. I would not wait until my child is five or six just to be able to look back and say, "It was nothing." By then, intervention is less effective than if the child was two or three.

    July 5, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Concerned

    A friend was recently discussing the fact that her two year old grandson was not speaking. He was not even gurgling or cooing anymore. The speech pathologist took away his sippy cup, and now he is at least cooing, gurgling again. He still keeps a binky in his mouth most of the time, and I find that worrisome even though he is now making "sounds." My kids liked their binky, too, but I only gave it to them at sleep time. The binky can be made to disappear by the parent. Yes, he is learning sign language for certain things until he can finally speak. He is otherwise quite intelligent. I would just be very sad if my baby had not called me Mama ever at this age. I find it distressing that so many young parents feel like the kids need a sippy cup or food all the time. It's a terrible habit that will probably follow them all their lives. I know that sippy cups are very convenient, and there is less mess. But please, when you start to wean them from the breast or bottle, introduce the cup. Yes, there will be spills, but teach the cup for drinks at meals and skip all the continuous feeding/drinking.

    July 6, 2011 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. todd

    my kids were doing early math it was so great, we had a blast with flash cards for days.. now they are both studying for their PHD's in you people are all idiots!

    July 6, 2011 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Teresa

    I would like to know the name of the Australian Study or published research report about which this article is written.

    September 20, 2012 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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