How to Help Late Talkers
Late Talking Children
Recently I spoke with a new member of my turn autism around community. The dad wasn’t ready to label his child with autism while the mom was ready to start interventions. Dad mentioned that he himself was a late talker and felt like his daughter was just a late talker too. So the question is, do you wait for late talkers to catch up? Or how can you tell if there’s something more?
When the word autism was first considered for my son, Lucas, I met with a friend who told me that if ABA therapy was working for kids with the most severe autism, why wouldn’t it help my son who I thought was just speech delayed? It was from then on, I decided to do everything I could to help my own son catch up developmentally. Whether your child is a late talker or has autism, you want to start intervention as soon as possible.
Assessing a Speech Delay
The first step before intervening is to do an assessment. Part of that assessment is looking at your child in terms of not just how much they’re talking, but what they’re saying and how they’re using language. Are they just labeling numbers and letters or are they not talking at all? Is there any babbling or word approximations? What age are they? The other thing also to look at is receptively, how much are they understanding language? If you have a child that’s fully comprehending everything you’re saying and the expressive language is just delayed, that will make a difference too.
Finally after your own little assessment, you can also look at the CDC milestones to see what milestones your child should be doing currently. If there is a big gap, that’s when you really need to look and see how you can help your child catch up in some areas.
We want to assess all language areas, expressive and receptive. Also, assess things like social language sharing, playing, pointing to show you things, and imitation. And look at whether tantrums are excessive, whether there’s very much insistence on sameness and what their play looks like.
Is it Just a Speech Delay or Autism?
Being a late talker doesn’t necessarily mean autism. I have a video blog on the difference between autism and speech delay and another video blog on autism versus ADHD that go into this more. Some kids who have language delays and are late talkers actually do just catch up on their own or with some minimal help.
But some kids who have some speech will have words that they don’t use functionally. Those are the kids with poor expressive language and receptive language. Those are kids that we should be more concerned about. Kids who don’t use language functionally will label things but won’t ask for things. They may not be good at nonverbal communication such as pointing, sharing, showing you things, and imitation. If they’re not responding to their own name that may also be a red flag.
A late talker who’s pointing and sharing and showing an understanding of language, might just be a late talker. But, a late talker with a lot of other issues may have autism. It’s important, regardless of what it is or what it might be, for you to not be in denial like I was. Waitlists for evaluations are long. Get on a waitlist just in case because it can take months and sometimes over a year long to see a developmental pediatrician to tell if it’s autism or something else.
How to Help Late Talkers
Regardless of a diagnosis, you can build language starting right now. I have a whole online course that you could learn a lot more from, but I also have a really simple tip that you could start today. You want to simplify your speech as much as possible. If the child wants a banana and they are not speaking at all, hold up the banana and say “banana, banana, banana” as you hand it to them. You want to repeat the words three times and use single words. Instead of saying, “Johnny, let’s go up the steps and let’s get a bath,” say “up, up, up” to get them up the stairs. Try to be animated and fun and see if your child starts to comprehend and starts to talk a little bit more.
Having a late talker talker may be just that, a late talker. Others who are late talkers may go on to receive an autism diagnosis. As scary as this all is, the best step is to act now. Do an assessment, check out the milestones and learn more about techniques to help your child. The longer we wait for talking to come, the harder it becomes to help these kids catch up. Breaking language down to single words and repeating them frequently can help. You may want to check out my number one technique to get a child talking or talking more called the Shoebox Program.
If you are interested in learning more, sign up for my free two-minute quiz at marybarbera.com/quiz, watch a free online workshop and consider joining me for my online course and community where you can learn step by step what to do to help your child. Intervening at the first signs of late talking is critical to your child’s development. I encourage you not to wait, but to start helping your child or your early intervention clients today by taking the free online quiz at marybarbera.com/quiz.