Naturally, parents are incredibly observant of their children’s developing skills and those of their peers. Their use of language and how they communicate is undoubtedly a benchmark many parents observe and compare to playmates and older siblings or relatives. These comparisons are typically how parents judge whether their children’s speech and language are progressing at a normal rate, but there’s more to it than that!
It’s not uncommon for parents to check with relatives, other parents or family doctors to gain their impressions, and more often than not, they’ll hear that other children were similar in a slight delay but then rapidly progressed to a normal pace.
What if that progression doesn’t occur? There’s a natural worry that parents experience when they’re wanting to determine the best course of action, and as with most things in life, the waiting is the hardest part.
The truth is, there is no way of knowing if your child is just a late bloomer or may be experiencing language delays through a parents or untrained professionals eyes. While the stages of development are consistent, the exact ages that children will reach those benchmarks isn’t set in stone as abilities vary from person to person.
Your child’s innate ability for language acquisition, other skills they’re being taught, and the amount and kind of language they’re exposed to all play a critical role in the speed of their language development. Given that there many factors that determine your child’s progress, it’s difficult to surmise where your child will be in 3 months, 6 months or even a year.
There are however certain risk factors that have been shown to potentially increase the risk for late talking children between 18- to 30-month-old range.
- Receptive Language- Comprehension generally precedes expression and use. Studies have shown that age-appropriate receptive language skills distinguished late bloomers from children who did experience genuine speech and language acquisition delays.
- Gestures- A study found the number of gestures used by late-talking children were relatively low in comparison to peers indicated late-language learning abilities. Conversely, children with a higher number of gestures used for various communication purposes are more likely to accelerate and meet the level of their peers. Alongside this, studies have shown that children taught non-verbal communication methods often show a spontaneous increase in ability and use of oral communication that meets the level of their peers.
- Age of Diagnosis- As with anything, typically the later the diagnosis the poorer the outcome is. That’s not to say there aren’t remedies, but we should note that older children have naturally had a longer time to bloom and haven’t, signaling to parents and professionals that the speech and language delays may be more severe. Coupled with this, if a child is already experiencing delays and developing slowly during a period when their peers experience rapid progress, like the 24- to 30-month-old range, they’re more likely to continue falling behind.
- Progress and Development- Although children may be slow with their language development, they should continuously be pushed to do new things with the speech and language skills they currently possess. What does this look like? This includes introducing new words to your children and repurposing known words to be used differently to help expand their concept of language and application. Like expanding the sole word “bottle” to mean “my bottle,” “the bottle,” or “want bottle” with the overarching goal of expanding utterances and word usage.
These factors are not a concrete determinant that your child has true language problems, they’re risk factors that can negatively increase the risk for a speech and language delay. If you’re worried, want a second opinion or just want to help your child meet and exceed expectations, consider meeting and partnering with a dedicated speech-language pathologist. Early intervention is a key to your child’s success.
A speech-language pathologist may administer tests of receptive and expressive language, analyze your young one’s utterances and determine factors that could be impeding their speech and language development. Naturally, following a professional evaluation speech-language pathologists can offer parents tips and advice on practices they can use at home to bolster their child’s abilities.
Most importantly, your speech-language pathologist can act as a guiding force for you and your child as you tackle any language delays they may experience, and they have the ability to offer professional help while also regularly giving fun, educational home activities that can be used to ease parents’ concerns and help children progress.
Waiting to find out if your child is a late bloomer or has language delays can be nerve wracking. But you aren’t alone! Visit with a passionate speech-language pathologist and start down the path of progress together!
If you’re wanting more tips and professional help, then find a passionate, dedicated professionals like the staff at Greater Learning LP. We’re here for you and your family in your journey toward healthier living.