Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

Many children meet all of their developmental motor milestones on time. They roll over, sit up and walk with ease and have the skills to explore their environment. They can play with toys, open boxes, kick balls and entertain themselves with a variety of objects.

Some children have all these motor skills and seem to understand basic commands and questions, but appear unusually quiet. Some children have a few words like “mama”, “dada” and “milk”. Perhaps other children have a few more words for some common objects like “dog” or “blanket” or approximations of family member’s name, but that’s it. Where are the words? When a child is late to talk it could just be a passing developmental phase. However, it may also be a symptom of speech and/or language disorder. It could even be a more serious disability such as autism spectrum disorder or other intellectual disability. This is not the time to panic. Instead, it is time to take action.

Consulting with a health care provider is great place to start. Hopefully, that professional will tell you to get your child evaluated. Many parents have told me that their health care provider told them to wait. It is a win-win situation when the child gets an appropriate and timely evaluation. Parents get to express their concerns about their child’s development and receive information on how to help their child. Countless numbers of parents have told me that they spent hours online researching why their child did not talk only to have more questions than answers.

In a 1993 study, Rhea Paul Ph.D. showed that 50-70% of late talkers at 2 years old end up catching up by age 3, with respect to vocabulary growth, with no clinical intervention. While language delay may resolve on its own, I do not recommend that parents wait. The Department of Early Intervention in your county can get the process started. It is better to be safe than sorry and early intervention may help facilitate better language sooner so that your child has better communication with you, family and their peers.