Late Speakers

What is delayed speech and language development
Parents are often concerned about their children’s speech and language development when they don’t seem to be talking as well as other children of the same age. Some of these children catch up while others don’t.  Difficulties with spoken language may lead to frustration and this could consequently reflect on the child’sbehaviour and learning.

Language: the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Expressive Language: How a person expresses language. (Example: speaking and writing)
Receptive language: How a person understands language. (Example: listening, following instructions, reading).
Receptive and Expressive language may be divided into the following three areas:

  • semantics (vocabulary)
  • syntax (grammar)
  • pragmatics (social skills)

Speech: the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds.
Knowledge of what’s “normal” speech and language development can help parents figure out if they should be concerned and whether they should refer their children to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).

Normal speech and language developmetal milestones

Before 12 months
It is important for children this age to be observed cooing and babbling. As babies get older (often around 9 months), they begin to string sounds together and use the different tones of speech.

From 12 – 15 months
Children of this age should have a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling and at least one or more meaningful words. Nouns usually come first, like “baby” and “ball.” The child should also be able to understand and follow single directions (e.g., “Please give me the toy”).

From 18 to 24 months
Children should have a vocabulary of about 20 words by 18 months and 50 words or more by age 2. At this stage, they will also start to combine two words, such as “mum drink” or “papa car.” A 2-year-old should also be able to follow two-step commands (e.g., “Please give me the toy and bring me your cup”).

From 2 to 3 years
The child’s vocabulary should increase (to an amount where there are too many words to count). she/he should routinely combine three or more words into sentences. The child’s understanding also matures and prepositions, some colors and adjectives embedded in short sentences should be understood. At this stage, children still find certain speech sounds difficult to pronounce. The child’s speech may not sound clear but should be intelligible to familiar people such as parents, siblings and grandparents.

From 3½ to 4 years
Children should express themselves in clear sentences though a few speech sounds such as ‘g’ in‘ginger’ or long words may not be produced clearly. They should also understand complex commands.

Warning signs of a possible problem

Between 12 to 24 months of age:

  • Not responding to sound or not vocalizing;
  • No use of gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye;
  • Prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate by 18 months;
  • Finds difficulty with imitating sounds by 18 months.

Over 2 years of age:

  • Can only imitate speech or actions and does not produce words or phrases spontaneously;
  • Says only certain sounds or words repeatedly and cannot use spoken language to communicate more than his or her immediate needs;
  • Cannot follow simple directions.

What causes delayed speech or language?


  • Hearing impairment
  • Global developmental delay
  • Autism or ADHD
  • Neurological disorders (cerebral palsy)
  • Auditory processing disorders
  • Intellectual disability
  • Inadequate environmental stimulation.

Speech delays in an otherwise normally developing child are rarely caused by problems with the tongue or the roof of the mouth. Having a “tongue-tie” is almost never a cause of delayed speech. A number of children with speech delays have oral-motor problems, meaning that they encounter difficulty using the lips, tongue, and jaw to produce speech sounds. Speech may be the only problem or may be accompanied by other problems such as feeding difficulties. A speech delay may also indicate a more general developmental delay.

What will the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) do?
The SLP will look at your child’s speech and language skills within the context of his or her total development. Along with observations of your child, the SLP will use tests as well as his or her knowledge of milestones in speech and language development .In speech language therapy, a speech language specialist will work with a child with a specific disorder along with different disorder and specific therapy approaches. Therapy is individualized to meet each child’s needs.

What can parents do?
If the SLP finds that your child needs speech therapy, parental involvement will be very important. Parents can observe therapy sessions and learn to participate in the process. The SLP will also show careers how they can work with their child at home to improve his or her speech and language skills. With appropriate therapy, the child will likely be able to communicate better with family members and the rest of the people around him/her.

What to expect from therapy.
Our clinicians work 1:1 with the child to help maximize his/her communication. Young children will be immersed in a therapy environment that will facilitate an easier approach to speech production.

Children of motivated and systematic hard working parent will show noticeable improvements during their initial sessions itself.

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