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Toddler Talking Late? Don't Worry

When a friend of mine’s daughter approached her third birthday without saying a word, we were concerned. Everyone who knew her seemed to be quietly worrying over the same shadowy fear: is this kid on the autism spectrum? Or is there some other developmental problem causing the delay? Basically, is there something wrong?

Only her dad was sanguine about it. “I was a late talker, too,” he said. “She’ll be fine.”

Sure enough, a year later she’s chattering just as much as her peers in preschool.

Turns out, their experience is pretty common. New research from Australia says toddlers who talk late aren’t at an increased risk for behavioral or emotional problems later in childhood, TIME reports.

The Aussie study found that kids who talk late do just fine in school and social settings later on. They found that:

…children who were late-talkers at age 2 did not show any increased risk of behavioral or emotional problems throughout their childhood or adolescence, compared with children whose language development followed what experts consider a “normal” trajectory.

The late talkers did have more behavioral issues at age 2, but the researchers attributed this to their frustration at not being able to communicate effectively, and said the problems were “not enduring”.

That’s a relief. They said most interventions and therapies to get kids this young to start talking are probably not necessary. The kids will start speaking on their own once they’re ready. If you do want to nudge your toddler towards her next language milestone, there’s one easy trick you can use at home: talk to her. The TIME piece says:

The best way to ensure that children hit normal language milestones is to engage with them and stimulate them by introducing them to new things in their environment, Whitehouse says. “Get down on the floor and play with [your] child, talk with them, read to them and interact with them at their level,” he says.

What do you think? Did you have a late talker in your family?

Photo: Johnath

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