Is My Child a Late Bloomer Or Is It A Language Problem? Speech Therapists Weigh In.

All children develop at their own pace and in their own way, each displaying their own strengths. This is as true for speech and language development as it is for anything else. But while the traditional wisdom when it came to late talkers was to simply wait-and-see, medical professionals are increasingly urge parents to have their kids evaluated sooner than later. Our Fort Myers speech therapists encourage the same, knowing that while some kids really are late bloomers, a language problem becomes more difficult to correct the longer you wait.

Sometimes, this message can get a bit muddied when reports of some studies, such as one published by The American Academy of Pediatrics, are reported under headlines such as, “Late Talkers Do Fine as They Grow Up.” This ends up giving many parents a false sense of assurance. That study tended to show little to no lasting behavior or emotional problems associated with late-talking toddlers by age 5. However, it didn’t assess the language outcomes, so it’s a leap to say those kids went on to be “fine.”

Somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of toddlers who talk late will outgrow that language delay – but only if it is an expressive language delay (difficulties with verbal and written expression). Those with receptive language delays (understanding what is being said to them) may have a more difficult time. What our speech therapists want parents to bear in mind is that while many toddlers will outgrow a language delay, 20 percent to 30 percent will not – unless they have access to early intervention like speech therapy.

What’s more: We don’t know which children are going to catch up and which will continue to fall behind if they don’t get help. Long-term, language delays can mean problems reading and writing as well as developing and maintaining positive relationships. Initiating speech therapy for a child who may ultimately catch up won’t hurt (and you’ll know soon enough if they do). However, our speech therapists know that waiting on early intervention for a child who needs it only compounds the issue and leaves a child further behind than they would have been.

In fact, ample research clearly shows that the sooner a child with a speech or language delay receives help, the better off his/her long-term outcomes will be.

Speech Therapists Explain When Concern May Be Warranted

Parents should pay careful attention to a child’s speech and language development, particularly for children who are between the ages of 12-and-30-months-old.

Some of the things our FOCUS speech therapists look for in our evaluations of new patients are:

  • Does the child understand language? A child will usually understand what he or she hears before they begin using words. This is what we refer to as “receptive language.” A child who does not understand what others are saying is at higher risk of long-term language delays.
  • Does the child use gestures? Kids often use gestures to get their point across long before they can talk. This could be waving “hi” or “bye” or pointing to an object they want or outstretching their arms to be picked up. If your child uses a lot of gestures, it’s more probable he or she will catch up. Fewer gestures could signal a bigger problem.
  • Is your child learning new words? Maybe your child is slower to talk than his or her peers, but is he or she still adding new words to their vocabulary each month? If not, this could be cause for further evaluation.

None of these questions will definitively tell our speech therapists whether your child has a speech-language delay, but they do give us a better idea. FOCUS does offer initial consultations for those who aren’t sure whether their child should be tested.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy and online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Late Blooming or Language Problem? American Speech-Language Hearing Association

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Now Offers Online Speech Therapy for Kids in Fort Myers, Feb. 18, 2020, Fort Myers Speech Therapists’ Blog

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