Late Talkers

Do Late Talkers “Catch Up?”

February 4, 2023

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JANUARY 1, 2023

toddler with a speech delay

Who is a “Late-Talker?”

“Late-Talkers” are defined as toddlers between 18-30 months with good understanding of language, typically developing play skills, motor skills, thinking skills, and social skills, but has limited words for his or her age (Hanen Center). In other words, they are meeting all of their developmental milestones, expect for the words they are saying

We define Late Talker as toddlers who are:

18 -20 months: and use less than 24 words

21-24 months: and use less than 40 words

Your toddler should be using different types of words, such as nouns (“baby”, “cookie”), verbs (“eat”, “go”), prepositions (“up”, “down”), adjectives (“hot”, “sleepy”), and social words (“hi”, “bye”)?

24 months: and use less than 100 words

Your toddler should be combining 2 words together at 24 months such as “daddy gone” or “eat cracker.”

Won’t My Toddler “Grow Out” Of It?

While many children do “grow out of it,” many do not. About 20-30% of Late Talkers will continue to have difficulty with language. There are several risk factors that suggest a child is more likely to have difficulty with language, such as difficulty with reading and writing when they enter school (Olswang et. al, 1998). They are:

  • Uses few gestures to communicate
  • Uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few action words
  • Difficulty playing with peers (social skills)
  • Family history of communication delay, learning or academic difficulties
  • Mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
  • Quiet as an infant; little babbling
  • History of ear infections
  • Limited number of consonant sounds (p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
  • Does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
  • Does not imitate (copy) words

Research shows that:

20-30% of Late Talkers will not catch up with peers and will continue to have difficulty with language
Some of the areas impacted are language skills such as how their brain processes speech, literacy
skills such as understanding and telling stories, and executive functioning skills such as planning,
organizing, and impulse control Children who seem to grow out of it, may have subtle difficulties in these areas.

When we help toddlers early on, not only can we help their language skills, but we can impact all of these areas of development. Early Intervention maters and the earlier the better!

What Can I Do to Help My Toddler Right Now?

  1. Consult with a Speech Pathologist It’s never too early to be proactive.
  2. Have your child’s hearing tested to make sure they are hearing speech sounds
  3. There are simple strategies you can start using right at home! My Free Late-Talker Guide has 5 strategies you can start using right away and my course for parents, The Late-Talker Toolkit, shows you exactly how to implement 10 research backed strategies specifically for toddlers an expressive speech delay at home.


Olswang, L.B., Rodriguez, B. & Timler, G. (1998). Recommending Intervention for Toddlers With Specific Language Learning Difficulties: We May Not Have All the Answers, But We Know a Lot. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 7, 23 – 32.

Rice, M. L., Taylor, C. L., & Zubrick, S.R. (2008). Language outcomes of 7-year-old children with or without a history of late language emergence at 24 months. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51, 394-407

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