Late Talkers

While all children develop [speech] at their own pace, when it comes to speech development, it can be unsettling to parents to ignore milestone expectations. There are speech timelines in place as a guide for understanding a child’s growth and development, but when discussing late talkers, how will a parent know if their child is at risk?


A late talker would be characterized as a child aged 18-30 months (1 ½ -2 ½ years) who has a good understanding of language, with no other motor, developmental or social issues, but has limited expressively vocabulary.

Some risk factors for identifying late talkers may include:

  • History of ear infections
  • Lack of imitation (of words)
  • Lack of babbling/consistent babbling
  • Restricted in production of consonant sounds
  • Uses mostly nouns and few verbs
  • Some noted pragmatic limitations (difficulty playing with peers)
  • Family history of communication delay.

While many late talkers grow out of this stage, it may be difficult to predict whether or not these children will ‘catch up’ to their peers. Even if a child, who may have been identified as a late talker, appears to be communicating at age-level, there may be later more complex aspects of language, like: grammar, spelling, reading, writing and vocabulary, which may be challenging to this population at the school level.


If a toddler appears to have limited vocabulary for his/her age and/or displays any of the above-mentioned identifiable risk factors, it may be a good idea to consult with a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation. Additionally, if a previously identified late talker ‘catches up’ to their age-matched peers (with language), a consultation with a speech-language pathologist may be recommended to ensure that no other challenges with language persist into development.