Children who are late to talk may go on to have persistent language disorders and learning difficulties. Research shows that birth to 3 years of age is a critical time for children’s speech and language development (NIDCD 2017). Early referral and detection of language difficulties is essential for enriching parent-child interaction and narrowing the gap between children with language difficulties and peers who have normal language acquisition.
There are a number of risk factors for persisting language delay (Target Word; The Hanen Centre) including:
- Limited babbling – Recurrent otitis media
- Limited range of speech sounds – Family history of learning and/or language difficulties
- Reduced imitation of words – Poor social skills
- Slow progress in acquiring words – Educational levels of parents
- Limited action words (verbs) – Family socio-economic status
In children with typically developing language (Owens, 2012):
- From 12 months – Children begin using their first words
- Between 18-24 months – Children’s vocabulary will build from 50 to 200-300 words. / Children will combine words into small phrases.
If by two years of age, a child has two or more risk factors, less than 40 words and no small phrases, please consider a referral to Speech Pathology. Earlier referral may be indicated if you feel a child is unlikely to reach these targets by two years.
Developmental norms apply equally to boys and girls (The Hanen Centre) and children developing language bilingually (ASHA 2017). These groups follow typically developing language patterns and do not develop language at a different rate.
If you have any concerns about a child’s communication development, a Speech Pathology assessment may be accessed through NSW Health. Parents may contact the service directly and a written referral is not required. Local Speech Pathology services through NSW Health can be contacted on:
- Hornsby Hospital: 9477 9554
- Northern Beaches: 9951 0299
- Royal North Shore: 94629200
- Ryde: 94486877