Have you ever been concerned about your child’s development only to be told that they’ll do it “when they’re ready”? While it’s a common belief, this “wait and see” approach is not the best choice, especially when it comes to speech and language. But how can you tell if your child has a delay or if they are simply a late talker? Keep reading to find out what the difference is, why early intervention is crucial, and how our speech-language pathologists can help.

What Is a Speech or Language Delay?

A speech or language delay is when a child does not have the communication skills they should have achieved by their age. This is based on the average age most children reach these milestones—and because it’s an average, some experts believe that delays of a few months are normal and expected when they aren’t.

Signs and Symptoms of a Speech or Language Delay

The common signs of a speech or language delay include:

  • Limited vocabulary for their age
  • Difficulty forming sentences or expressing thoughts
  • Challenges understanding and following directions
  • Frustration or withdrawal during communication
  • Trouble speaking clearly
  • Not babbling or trying to make sound

What Is a Late Talker?

Because children do develop at their own pace, some may take longer to start speaking and using language—without any underlying conditions. This is why some experts recommend the “wait and see” method. But early speech and language milestones like babbling are vital for your child’s growth. The less practice they have with basic skills, the harder it will be for them to master more complex skills.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Speech Delay and a Late Talker

The only way to know for sure if your child is a late talker or if they have a delay is to begin therapy. If your child breezes through their therapy plan without struggle, they were probably just a late talker. But in many cases, we’ve found that children will struggle with some area of speech or language that our therapists can then address immediately.

Why Early Intervention Is Crucial for Speech and Language Delays

Speech and language are complex skills that lay the foundation for future learning. Even a slight delay in reaching milestones can compound over time and make it challenging for a child to catch up. Early intervention addresses these struggles to ensure children are well-prepared for school and have a solid foundation for success. If your child hasn’t started speaking words by 12 months old, we recommend you bring them to Building Futures for a speech and language screening.

How Speech Therapy Treats Speech and Language Delays

Our pediatric speech-language pathologists use proven, play-based therapy techniques to help children improve their speech and language skills. Through simple games, exercises, and other engaging activities, we empower children to communicate their ideas freely and give them the skills they need for success in all areas of life.

Free Developmental Screening

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, you can take advantage of our free online developmental screening. This tool is a convenient way for parents to know with certainty if your child is achieving their developmental milestones or if they need extra support to achieve their brightest future.

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