Language Delays in Toddlers: Information for Parents (2023)

Your baby is able to communicate with you long before they speak a single word! A baby's cry, smile, and responses to you help you to understand their needs. Learn how children communicate and what to do when there are concerns about delays in development.

Milestones during the first 2 years

Children develop at different rates, but they usually are able to do certain things at certain ages. Following are general developmental milestones. Keep in mind that they are only guidelines. If you have any questions about your baby's development, ask your child's doctor—the sooner the better. Even when there are delays, early intervention can make a significant difference.

By 1 year most babies will

  • Look for and be able to find where a sound is coming from.

  • Respond to their name most of the time when you call it.

  • Wave goodbye.

  • Look where you point when you say, "Look at the _________."

  • Babble with intonation (voice rises and falls as if they are speaking in sentences).

  • Take turns "talking" with you—listen and pay attention to you when you speak and then resume babbling when you stop.

  • Say "da-da" to dad and "ma-ma" to mom.

  • Say at least 1 word.

  • Point to items they want that are out of reach or make sounds while pointing.

    (Video) Childhood Speech and Language Delays

Between 1 and 2 years most toddlers will

By 2 years of age most toddlers will

  • Point to many body parts and common objects.

  • Point to some pictures in books.

    (Video) Parent of a child with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) - DLDandMe.org

  • Follow 1-step commands without a gesture like "Put your cup on the table."

  • Be able to say about 50 to 100 words.

  • Say several 2-word phrases like "Daddy go," "Doll mine," and "All gone."

  • Perhaps say a few 3-word sentences like "I want juice" or "You go bye-bye."

  • Be understood by others (or by adults) about half of the time.

When milestones are delayed

If your child's development seems delayed or shows any of the behaviors in the following list, tell your child's doctor. Sometimes language delays occur along with these behaviors. Also, tell your child's doctor if your baby stops talking or doing things that he or she used to do.

  • Doesn't cuddle like other babies

  • Doesn't return a happy smile back to you

  • Doesn't seem to notice if you are in the room

  • Doesn't seem to notice certain noises (for example, seems to hear a car horn or a cat's meow but not when you call his or her name)

  • Acts as if he or she is in his or her own world

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  • Prefers to play alone; seems to "tune others out"

  • Doesn't seem interested in or play with toys but likes to play with objects in the house

  • Has intense interest in objects young children are not usually interested in (for example, would rather carry around a flashlight or ballpoint pen than a stuffed animal or favorite blanket)

  • Can say the ABCs, numbers, or words to TV jingles but can't use words to ask for things he or she wants

  • Doesn't seem to be afraid of anything

  • Doesn't seem to feel pain in a typical fashion

  • Uses words or phrases that are unusual for the situation or repeats scripts from TV

Delays in language

Delays in language are the most common types of developmental delay. One out of 5 children will learn to talk or use words later than other children their age. Some children will also show behavioral problems because they are frustrated when they can't express what they need or want.

Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. They may resolve on their own or with a little extra help from family. It's important to encourage your child to "talk" to you with gestures or sounds and for you to spend lots of time playing with, reading to, and talking with your infant or toddler. In some cases, your child will need more help from a trained professional, a speech and language therapist, to learn to communicate.

Sometimes delays may be a warning sign of a more serious problem that could include hearing loss, developmental delay in other areas, or even an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Language delays in early childhood also could be a sign of a learning problem that may not be diagnosed until the school years. It's important to have your child evaluated if you are concerned about your child's language development.

What your child's doctor might do

Sometimes more information is needed about your child before your child's doctor can address your concerns. The doctor may

(Video) Child’s Speech Delay the Parent’s Fault?

  • Ask you some questions or ask you to fill out a questionnaire.

  • Interact with your child in various ways to learn more about his or her development.

  • Order a hearing test and refer you to a speech and language therapist for testing. The therapist will evaluate your child's speech (expressive language) and ability to understand speech and gestures (receptive language).

  • Refer your child for evaluation through an early intervention program.

What to expect after the doctor's visit

If your child's doctor tells you not to worry (that your child will "catch up in time") but you are still concerned, it's OK to get a second opinion. You can ask your child's doctor for a referral to a developmental specialist or a speech and language therapist. You may also contact an early intervention program for an evaluation if your child is younger than 3 years, or your local school district if he or she is 3 or older.If what your child says (expressive language) is the only delay, you may be given suggestions to help your child at home. Formal speech therapy may also be recommended.

If both what your child understands (receptive language) and what he or she says are delayed and a hearing test is normal, your child will need further evaluation. This will determine whether the delays are caused by a true communication dis order, generalized developmental delays, an ASD, or another developmental problem.

When an ASD is the reason for language delays, your child will also have difficulty interacting with other people and may show some or all of the concerning behaviors listed previously. If there is concern your child might have an ASD, your child will usually be referred to a specialist or a team of specialists for evaluation and treatment of an ASD or a related disorder. The specialist(s) may then recommend speech therapy and may suggest other ways to improve social skills, behavior, and the desire to communicate.

Programs that help children and families

If your child has delays or suspected delays, your child's doctor will probably refer you to an early intervention program in your area. The staff there might do additional evaluations and reassure you that your child's development is normal or tell you that your child would benefit from some type of intervention. Your child does not need to have a diagnosis of a developmental problem to receive services through this program.

If your child is younger than 3 years, the referral may be to an early intervention program in your area. Early intervention programs are sometimes called "Part C" or "Birth to Three" programs. Early intervention is a federal- and state-funded program that helps children and their families. You may also contact the early intervention program yourself.

If your child qualifies for services, a team of specialists will work with you to develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan becomes a guide for the services your child will receive until 3 years of age. It may include parent training and support, direct therapy, and special equipment. Other services may be offered if they benefit your child and family. If your child needs help after 3 years of age, the early intervention staff will transition your child to services through your local school district.

If your child is 3 years or older, the referral may be to your local public school. You may also contact the local public school directly. If your child is eligible, the school district staff will, with your input, develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This plan may provide some of the same services as the early intervention program but focus on school services for your child. The level of services also may be different. If your child continues to need special education and services, the IEP will be reviewed and revised from time to time.

(Video) Parent of a child with Speech Delay

Remember

As a parent, follow your instincts. If you continue to have concerns about your child's development, ask for a reevaluation or referral for additional formal testing.

Listing of resources does not imply an endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is not responsible for the content of the resources mentioned on this page. Web site addresses are as current as possible, but may change at any time.

More information

  • Ask the Pediatrician:My baby is turning a year old this month. Should she be talking by now?​
  • How to Raise Concerns About a Child's Speech and Language Development
  • Language Development: 8 to 12 Months
  • Language Development: 1 Year Olds
  • Language Development: 2 Year Olds
  • Family Voices
  • Learn the Signs. Act Early.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

FAQs

What is the most common cause of language delays in toddlers? ›

MENTAL RETARDATION. Mental retardation is the most common cause of speech delay, accounting for more than 50 percent of cases.

Can speech delay be caused by parents? ›

Delays can also be caused by neglect, abuse, or an event or circumstance that was really disruptive to development. These are atypical scenarios though that we rarely encounter. For the average parent doing their best, you can rest assured that your child's speech or language delay is definitely not your fault.

What should I do if my child's speech or language appears to be delayed? ›

If your child might have a problem, it's important to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) right away. You can find a speech-language pathologist on your own, or ask your health care provider to refer you to one. The SLP (or speech therapist) will check your child's speech and language skills.

How can I help my language delay toddler? ›

Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. They may resolve on their own or with a little extra help from family. It's important to encourage your child to "talk" to you with gestures or sounds and for you to spend lots of time playing with, reading to, and talking with your infant or toddler.

Do toddlers with language delays catch up? ›

Some children with expressive language delay "catch up" during the preschool years ("late bloomers"), whereas others have persistent delay (see 'Natural history' below). Early evaluation can help to correctly identify late-talking children who will benefit from intervention and/or additional evaluation.

What factors could delay language development? ›

Causes of language delay

boys. children who have a close family member with a history of a language delay or communication disorder. children who have a developmental disorder or syndrome like autism or Down syndrome. children with ongoing hearing problems and ear infections.

Can my child have a speech delay and not be autistic? ›

Not necessarily. While speech delays, language delays, and learning differences are often a hallmark of ASD, a speech delay by itself does not mean a child has autism. In fact, there are key differences between communication delays caused by autism and other types of speech-language disorders.

What are three possible causes of speech language delays? ›

The most common causes of speech delay include: Hearing loss. Slow development. Intellectual disability.

Why is my 2 year old not talking but understands everything? ›

There are several reasons why a 2-year-old is babbling but not talking. Sometimes, it may be because they are shy or introverted. It can also be related to hearing loss or other developmental delays. In most cases, however, the cause is unknown.

What kinds of interventions for language delay are effective? ›

Naturalistic interventions

providing distributed learning opportunities rather than massed blocks of trials. following the child's focus of attention or interest. using antecedent and consequent stimuli naturally associated with a particular communication response.

Can speech delay be corrected? ›

If your child does have a delay, they might need speech therapy. A therapist can work with them on how to pronounce words and sounds, and strengthen the muscles in their face and mouth. You can also work with your child on speech and language: Talk with them throughout the day.

Can too much TV cause speech delay? ›

It isn't so much that language delays are caused by watching television. It's that children benefit most when they engage in conversations with other people. Screen time can create problems if it displaces conversation time and other important, real-world, developmental activities.

What is an example of a language delay? ›

Common symptoms of a language delay include: not babbling by the age of 15 months. not talking by the age of 2 years. an inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3 years.

How long does it take to correct speech delay? ›

Many children who need speech therapy have an articulation or phonological processing disorder. The typical time to correct a speech difference is 15-20 hours (Jacoby et al, 2002) with typical frequency for articulation treatment being two times weekly for 30 minute sessions (ASHA 2004).

Do kids outgrow speech delays? ›

Between 20–30% of Late Talkers do not grow out of their language delay. These children have ongoing difficulties and need intervention to help them with their language and literacy skills [1]. They may receive a diagnosis of language disorder.

What affects language development in toddlers? ›

General physiological condition and Motor development influence language development. Severe and prolonged illness and poor health particularly during the first two years of life retards the development of speech undoubtedly. Due to illness the child is separated from others and hence cannot learn to speak.

Is speech delay special needs? ›

Some causes of language delay:

These kids may have trouble producing speech sounds, using spoken language to communicate, or understanding what other people say. Speech and language problems are often the earliest sign of a learning disability.

What percentage of speech delay is autism? ›

About 25% of children with autism will not develop the ability to speak. 4 These children may be able to learn to communicate via sign language, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), or augmentative communication.

What age do most autistic children talk? ›

Wodka's team studied 535 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who had “only a few single words at most” at age 4. By age 8, 70 percent had developed phrase or fluent speech, with 47 percent speaking fluently.

What factors affect children's speech and language delays? ›

Multilingual family environment, positive family history of speech–language delay, consanguinity, low paternal education, and low maternal education were found to be associated with speech–language delay.

What causes speech delay other than autism? ›

Other causes of speech delay in children

Hearing problems. Apraxia of speech (speech muscle-control issues) Cognitive setbacks. Learning disabilities.

What are six factors that can affect language development? ›

Factors that Influence Language Development
  • Introduction. Learning to talk is one of the most visible and important achievements of early childhood. ...
  • Subject. The nature of language knowledge. ...
  • Problems and Context. The debate. ...
  • Research Results. Predictable language sequences. ...
  • Social. ...
  • Perceptual. ...
  • Cognitive processes. ...
  • Conceptual.
1 Jan 2010

Is it normal for a 2 year old to not talk clearly? ›

If you're able to understand only a few or none of your 2-year-old's words, talk to your child's doctor about scheduling an evaluation. Speech delay can be an early sign of other developmental issues.

How do speech therapists help toddlers talk? ›

If kids have trouble with articulation or fluency, the therapist will spend time showing them how to make the proper sounds. The therapist will demonstrate the sounds and ask the kid to try to copy them. That means copying the way the therapist moves the lips, mouth, and tongue to make the right sound.

Can ADHD cause speech delay? ›

A delay in speech or language is one of the earliest signs we have for kids that do go on to get a diagnosis of ADHD later in childhood. In this 2012 study, researchers found that two-thirds of the elementary-aged kids with ADHD had a speech or language delay at 18 months.

What are 3 techniques used to encourage toddlers to speak correctly? ›

Here are some ways you can encourage your toddler's speech:
  • Talk directly to your toddler, even if just to narrate what you're doing.
  • Use gestures and point to objects as you say the corresponding words. ...
  • Read to your toddler. ...
  • Sing simple songs that are easy to repeat.
  • Give your full attention when talking to them.
25 Mar 2020

What are the three strategies for supporting language development? ›

7 ways to support language development
  • 1 | Use Comments. ...
  • 2 | Ask fewer questions. ...
  • 3 | Wait. ...
  • 4 | Be at the child's level. ...
  • 5 | Take Turns. ...
  • 6 | Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. ...
  • 7 | Make any time a talking time. ...
  • Further support.

What is the best way to stimulate early language development? ›

The best way to encourage your child's language development is to do a lot of talking together about things that interest your child. It's all about following your child's lead as they show you what they're interested in by waving, babbling or using words. From birth, talk with your child and treat them as a talker.

What age is speech delay a concern? ›

By two-and-a-half years, they may have started to use two-word phrases. At age three, children can have about 200 words or more. You child may have a speech delay if, at three: They're hard to understand.

At what age should speech therapy begin? ›

It's never too early or too late to start therapy. Children who aren't speaking at all are commonly referred for speech and language assessments around 18 months of age. But, it's absolutely possible for children to start at a younger age. Children born with a disability often start therapy as babies.

Can speech delay recover? ›

70-80% of late talkers will catch up (Whitehouse et. al, 2011). “Late talker” refers to a little one younger than 30 months old who is meeting milestones in other domains, including understanding of language, just not in expressive communication. But unfortunately, that does mean that 20-30% will continue to struggle.

At what age is speech fully developed? ›

3 to 4 years

Uses most speech sounds, but may distort some of the more difficult sounds, such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th. These sounds may not be fully mastered until age 7 or 8.

What food is good for speech delay? ›

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as healthy grass-fed meat, wild game and oily fish and avoiding processed foods, can go a very long way in maintaining a healthy balance and limiting oxidative stress.

Can parents cause speech delay? ›

Delays can also be caused by neglect, abuse, or an event or circumstance that was really disruptive to development. These are atypical scenarios though that we rarely encounter. For the average parent doing their best, you can rest assured that your child's speech or language delay is definitely not your fault.

How do you fix a language delay? ›

How Can Parents Help?
  1. Focus on communication. Talk with your baby, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.
  2. Read to your child. Start reading when your child is a baby. ...
  3. Use everyday situations. To build on your child's speech and language, talk your way through the day.

How much speech therapy is enough? ›

A number of research studies support the need for three to five individual sessions per week versus the traditional and less intensive one to two sessions per week (Hall et al., 1993; Skinder-Meredith, 2001; Strand & Skinder, 1999).

How common are speech delays? ›

Speech delays in toddlers are quite common. According to the University of Michigan Health System, delayed speech or language development affects 5 to 10 percent of preschool-aged children.

How can I help my toddler with speech therapy at home? ›

Speech therapy tips for parents to use at home
  1. Practice. ...
  2. Focus on what the child can do instead of overemphasizing what he or she can't do. ...
  3. Keep background noise and distractions to a minimum during learning sessions and at other times too. ...
  4. Listen! ...
  5. Use straws. ...
  6. Read. ...
  7. You can make a difference.

What are four reasons toddlers may be late talkers? ›

A variety of factors might contribute to a toddler's late-blooming speech:
  • Birth stats. Babies who were born underweight or before 37 weeks are at an increased risk of becoming late talkers as toddlers.
  • Twinning. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Other interests. ...
  • Lack of necessity. ...
  • History of hearing loss or ear infections.

Can a toddler have speech delay and not be autistic? ›

Not necessarily. While speech delays, language delays, and learning differences are often a hallmark of ASD, a speech delay by itself does not mean a child has autism. In fact, there are key differences between communication delays caused by autism and other types of speech-language disorders.

When should I worry about toddler speech delay? ›

If your child is over two years old, you should have your pediatrician evaluate them and refer them for speech therapy and a hearing exam if they can only imitate speech or actions but don't produce words or phrases by themselves, they say only certain words and only those words repeatedly, they cannot follow simple ...

Can delayed speech be corrected? ›

If your child does have a delay, they might need speech therapy. A therapist can work with them on how to pronounce words and sounds, and strengthen the muscles in their face and mouth. You can also work with your child on speech and language: Talk with them throughout the day.

What age do late talkers catch up? ›

Some late talkers will start to catch up to their peers by the age of three, but some may continue to have difficulty with spoken language. There are many different causes of late talking, and it is often hard to pinpoint the exact cause.

Why is my 3 year old only saying a few words? ›

If you find that your child is only saying a limited number of words and not using two word sentences, he may be behind in his expressive language. The best first step is to make an appointment with your son's pediatrician to discuss whether he might have a speech delay.

Videos

1. Is it a speech delay or autism? [Learn the KEY differences and how autism is diagnosed]
(Toddler Talk)
2. What to Do if Your Child has a Language Delay: Get an Early Start! Video Series
(Parents Helping Parents)
3. Does Screen Time Cause Speech and Language Delay in Toddlers? (a Rant from a Speech Therapist)
(Agents of Speech)
4. 5 Signs of a Speech Delay | Speech Therapist Explains
(Walkie Talkie Speech Therapy Inc.)
5. Rant About Speech Delay From Speech Therapist (Must Watch for Parents)
(Agents of Speech)
6. Worried about speech delay? [See what we found + how parents can help at home]
(Toddler Talk)
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