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Late Talker or Language Delay?

Are you concerned that your toddler is only saying a few words? Children begin talking at all different times; some children who begin talking a bit later compared to peers may just be blooming late and will eventually catch up. However, there are some signs to look out for that may raise concern for a problem. As a speech language pathologist, however, I can tell you that we are seeing a significant increase in children between the ages of 18-26 months who are presenting with delays with their expressive language development. Could this be due to the effects of the pandemic since right after these children were born, masks became prevalent and social distancing became the norm? We don't know for sure yet, but there seems to be a correlation between toddlers' current expressive language development and the effects of the pandemic.


Let's start with going over three risk factors that you can look for if your child is between 18-30 months of age:

  1. Learning new words: At 12 months old, a child should be saying approximately four to six words. By the time a child is 18 months old, they should be using 20 to 50 words and by 2 years old, they should be saying and producing 200 to 300 words. If your toddler is not using at least one new word every month, starting to put two words together or using words to ask questions, it may be time to seek a speech and language screening or evaluation.

  2. Using gestures: Children communicate using gestures before they are able to use words. If your child is not using gestures to communicate, such as waving "hi" or "bye," or raising his/her arms to be picked up, it is less likely that he/she will catch up to peers. The more gestures your toddler uses, the more likely it is that he/she will catch up to peers.

  3. Understanding Language (Receptive Language): A child usually understands what she hears before she uses words. If a child is able to point to objects when you name them and follow simple directions, then they are understanding language and are more likely to be able to catch up to peers.

Having a problem with anything on this list does not mean that your child has a language delay. However, it puts him more at risk. You may want to have your child tested to make sure her speech and language is where it should be.


You know your child best. You don’t have to wait and see if you think there might be a problem and you don’t have to guess if your child will catch up. You can have your child seen by a speech-language pathologist either through your local early intervention program or you can see a private therapist in your area. No matter where you decide to go, the speech therapist will talk to you about your concerns and test how well your child understands, speaks, and uses gestures. At Wee Speak, we offer families a free 15 minute screening to help you decide if a full evaluation may be needed or not.


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