“My child’s speech seems delayed in comparison to his/her peers. Is it time for an evaluation, or should I wait and see?”
Many parents question the need for an evaluation for their young children who are “late talkers.” Children typically begin producing their first words around 12 months of age. Children with few spoken words between 18-30 months of age are considered “late talkers” (http://www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/how-to-tell-if-your-child-is-a-late-talker-%E2%80%93-and-w.aspx). These children have a good understanding of language, are able to follow directions, can interact socially, and have appropriate play skills; they have a specific delay in expressive language. Pediatricians, parents, and speech/language pathologists sometimes disagree on the appropriate time to refer for a speech/language evaluation, since some children do seem to “catch up” on their own.
The following red flags are indicators that a child is not likely to catch up with peers, and a wait-and-see approach is not appropriate:
- The child used limited babbling and jargon as an infant
- There is a history of ear infections
- The child does not imitate words
- The child uses only a small number of consonant sounds (e.g., p, b, m)
- The child does not use gestures to communicate
- The child demonstrates poor social skills or play skills
- The child does not seem to understand questions or directions
If these red flags are still present by 18 months of age, consult with a speech/language pathologist to schedule an evaluation. Early intervention is key!
Blog post by Kelly Goad, MA, CCC-SLP