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  • Writer's pictureBrenna Donovan

Late Bloomer or Language Delay?

Children with language delay: how to tell if your child’s speech and language development is on track?

How can you tell if your child is a late bloomer or has a language delay? Parents often compare their child’s development to those of preschool playmates, friends’ children or even older siblings. Although the stages of development that children go through are the same, the exact age at which they hit those milestones can be very different. This can make it difficult for parents to decide if their child might need help. Check out these tips below to see if you should seek the help of a speech pathologist:

Can your child be understood when he or she talks? By the time children are 4 years of age, everyone they interact with should understand them almost all of the time. At age 2, we would expect them to be understood about 50% of the time and by 3 years of age, 75% of the time.

Is your child using long enough sentences? A good rule I tell parents is the 1:1, 2:2 and 3:3 rule: By 1 year, they should be using 1 word, by 2 years, they should use 2 words together and by 3 years, they should be putting 3+ words together consistently. Often, children are using even more language than the rule, however, if they are not, this is reason for concern.

Is your child’s vocabulary constantly expanding? By age 3, your toddler should have at least 200 words in their vocabulary and be able to understand even more. There should be a good mix of pronouns, nouns, action words and some describing words too. They should use these words to make requests for things, comment on activities or share their feelings.

Is your child making too many grammar mistakes? Children develop English grammar in a similar, predictable pattern. Early on, around age 2-3, they might begin to use pronouns like I, me, my, mine, she, he. Toddlers also start to use plurals nouns (cats), possessive nouns (Tom’s shoes), and -ing verbs (swimming).

Is your child able to follow increasingly complex directions? Your toddler should be able to follow multi-step instructions. For example, “Go and get your shoes then put them on please” or “Find the car and bring it to me.” As children develop, their ability to understand language should be increasing. If you find that your child often seems confused or is unable to follow instructions, this may be cause for concern.

Is your child constantly improving their language skills each month? If you notice there hasn’t been much change month to month in your child’s language development, this could be cause for concern. Children should be doing new thing with language at least every month. New words may develop or they may use known words in new ways. They may increase their length of sentences or be able to say a new sound that they could not before.

If you have concerns about your child, it is always best to seek the advice of a professional speech pathologist. Your speech pathologist can help you navigate if your child is a late bloomer or if they need professional intervention.


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