Late Language Emergence

Late language emergence, more commonly known as late talker, occurs when there is a delay in onset of language and the child has no other disabilities or delays. There doesn’t appear to be a cause. 

About 10-20% of 2-year-olds are considered a late talker. 

Risks Factors For Late Language Emergence

Risk factors DON’T mean that a child will have late language emergence. Risk factors are NOT causes. 

Common Risk Factors:

  • Delayed motor development
  • Low birth weight/premature birth
  • Family history of late talkers
  • Mother’s level of education
  • Lower SES status

To combat these risk factors (there are always things you can do to help) you can try:

  • Receive good pre- and post- natal care
  • Expose a child to vocabulary, grammar, and varied social situations
  • Create responsive learning environments
  • READ, READ, READ with your child
  • Create structured and unstructured play opportunities (both are equally important)
  • Enroll in speech therapy if needed
  • Create alternative communication systems such as use of visuals, sign language, and/or gestures

What does a late talker look like?

Contrary to popular belief, being a late talker is more than not just saying words.

A child who is a late talker or has late language emergence may have any of the following characteristics:

  • Delayed vocabulary acquisition: fewer than 50 words by 24 months of age
  • No 2-word combinations by 24 months of age
  • Decreased use of gestures
  • Slow development of sentence structure
  • Use of shorter mean length of utterance (MLU)
  • Delayed articulation development
  • Difficulty with language comprehension
  • Immature phonological development

Will my child just catch up?

This is a loaded question that is difficult to answer. Many parents wonder, is my child a late talker or is my child just a late bloomer?

Some quick tips:

  • Usually, late bloomers use more gestures to communicate in the absences of expressive language
  • Late bloomers rarely have any delays in language comprehension

If you want more detailed information on this topic, please refer to our late bloomer page. 

Bilingual Considerations

I live in a bilingual home and I am raising my children to be bilingual. I also had a son with late language emergence. So, I GET IT! Read about updates on my family here. 

If your child is bilingual, the one take-home message I want you to remember is being bilingual DOES NOT CAUSE A CHILD TO BE A LATE TALKER, EVER! Read more about being a late talker and bilingual here!

So PLEASE don’t use only one language. Being bilingual will HELP!

  • For more information on being a late talker and bilingual, click here.
  • For tips raising a bilingual child, click here.
  • To learn the basics on bilingualism and children, click here

Late Language Emergence Evaluation

To confirm if a child is a late talker, you need to schedule an evaluation. 

To learn what an evaluation for a late talker looks like and what to expect, click here: Late Talker Evaluation page.

Late Talker Therapy Techniques

Many parents wonder what a speech-language pathologist can do when their child isn’t even talking yet. The answer is... well quite a lot.

Click on our late talker therapy page to learn about all the research-based therapy techniques out there today!

What you can do today!

Now, we are getting to the good stuff. What can you do about it!

There is actually A LOT you can do. 

Okay, now you are ready for the games.

  • Check out our favorite late talker games
  • Consider our eBooks series!!! These will TRULY help!!! Toddler Talk 2.0 is for children who are only saying a few words. START HERE. You will learn how to encourage those first words.
  • If your child is saying over 50 words, consider Toddler Talking 2.0. It is the boost your child needs!


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