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“Late-Talkers” Catch Up As They Grow Older

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Do you have a toddler that isn’t talking as much as you think he or she should? There’s no need to worry according to a new study.

A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics says 18 percent of children have a language delay. Parents should not be overly concerned that late-talking at age two years will result in enduring language and psychological difficulties for the child,” Dr. Andrew Whitehouse, an associate professor and of developmental psychopathology at the University of Western Australia in Subiaco.

Researchers followed children who were part of the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort Study, including 1,245 children whose speech was not delayed: they were using at least 50 words and could string two or three words together in a phrase, and 142 who had not reached this milestone. The children were tracked through age 17. The Child Behavior Checklist, also based on parental report, was used to measure behavior by parent report and to measure child and adolescent behavior during follow up at 2-years-old, 5-years-old, 8-years-old, 10, 14, and 17.

At age 2, the children identified as “late-talkers” were more likely than other toddlers to have behavioral problems. But there was no difference between the groups at ages 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17.

The study looked at survey results filled out by parents on more than 1,400 two-year olds, born between 1989 and 1991. The researchers found that one of 10 kids was a late-talker, and these kids tended to act more introverted and displayed more emotional problems.

Dr. Whitehouse suggests that frustration may be at the root of the behavioral problems, and as the child develops better communication skills, the frustration eases or goes away.

Children usually can form meaningful words by the age of 18 months. Between the ages of 2 to 3 years old, children should be saying new words each month and using two-word sentences, such as “more juice.” Some children are late talkers because of hearing loss, cognitive impairment, speech disorder, language disorder, autism, or other considerations. If your child is a late talker it’s important to have your pediatrician check for possible medical causes. Still, for many it is simply a developmental stage with no long-term adverse effects.

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