In a recent episode of Tonic, Casey Beros interviewed Leslie Rescorla, director of the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, about late talkers. Here, Leslie has shared some information on how to spot if your child might be a late talker and if they are, what to do about it.
LATE TALKER TIPS
If your child is at least 24 months of age and has fewer than 50 words in his or her vocabulary, or is not combining words into 'two word phrases', then it's possible they may be a late talker. Although the determination of whether your child is truly a late talker needs to be made by a speech-language professional, psychologist, or other health professional, here are some questions that might be helpful for you to consider in deciding whether or not to seek professional consultation about your child's language development.
1) Does your child appear to have normal hearing?
2) Does your child seem to have normal non-verbal ability (gestures, play behaviours etc)? Does he or she seem to play with puzzles, blocks, and other toys like other children of the same age?
3) Does your child have normal receptive language? Does he or she understand language spoken to them as well as other children their age?
4) Does your child use make-believe play schemes with toys appropriately, such as pretending to drink from a cup, loading up a truck and pushing it, or brushing a doll's hair during play?
5) Is your child socially interactive with adults and children, such as making eye contact, smiling, and engaging in social play?
6) Does your child use gestures and sounds to communicate his intentions?
7) Does your child vocalize, babble, and use different consonants in his vocal play?
8) Does your child imitate actions and play activities that he sees other people perform?
9) Were you and your husband and your other children talking by 2 years of age?
If you answered "yes" to all or most of these questions, it is likely that your child is just learning to talk a little more slowly than his peers and will catch up fairly soon. However, if you have answered "no" to more than a few of these questions and your child is at least 24 months of age, then it would be good to consult a professional about your child's development.
STRATEGIES THAT CAN BE USEFUL IN FOSTERING LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
1. Talk frequently
Talk with your child about what you are doing and about the interesting things you see and hear when you are together. Example: "Look, there's a big truck."
2. Talk slowly
Your rate of speech must be slow enough to allow the meaning of individual words to be heard, but still must be natural.
3. Talk simply
Speak to your child in simple language. Children stop listening if you use language which is too complicated for them to follow.
4. Use repetition
Young children like predictable patterns in their routines, play, and language. You can help your child by using language routines or patterns which you vary in predictable ways. Example: "Look, the doggie's running, the doggie's jumping."
5. Don't make language a battle
Ask "choice" questions, but don't demand that your child speak in order to get what he wants. Example: "Do you want apple juice or milk?"
6. Don't "test" your child
Especially when children are slow to talk, parents are tempted to ask over and over, "What's this?" This is fine to do every now and then, but children usually get tired of it very quickly.
7. Don't push your child to imitate what you say
Some children like to repeat what adults say, and others do not. If your child likes to imitate, he or she will do it without your telling them to.
8. Use "expansions" of your child's speech
When your child says something spontaneously, try to elaborate or expand it by one or two words. Example: If she says "juice," then say "drink juice" or "more juice."
9. Use "pauses" to encourage your child to speak
Say something that uses a word, then say something else and leave a pause where the same word belongs. This invites (but does not require) your child to fill in the word. If your child doesn't say the word, you complete the phrase. Example: "See the car? Look, here's a big _____",
10. Talk about your child's interests
When your child is playing, use words that refer to the objects and actions he is involved with. Example: If your child is building with blocks, say things like "up, up, up" or "high" or "fall down," or "boom."
11. Respond positively when your child communicates
Listen carefully to what your child tries to say, answer when your child speaks to you, and show that you are pleased when he or she communicates something to you.
12. Be enthusiastic about language
When you talk to your child and model new words and phrases, show by your tone of voice that you are enthusiastic and interested in what you are saying.