Those exciting first words!

Developmental milestones can be used to describe where children are and where they are headed. For instance, children typically produce their first words around 12-months of age. From there, children acquire labels for familiar people (e.g., sibling’s names) and preferred objects (e.g., “ball”). Around 18 months, typically developing children have approximately 20 words. They begin making meaningful requests and comments with their verbalizations. Word inventories grow rapidly during toddlerhood. By 24-months, typically developing children are expected to have acquired 100-200 words! In addition, two-word utterances are likely to emerge within this age range (e.g., “Want ball!” or “Go mommy!”).

It’s important to note that children are unique in their developmental journey. Some children acquire verbal language earlier or later than others. The Hanen Centre defines late talkers as, “a toddler who is late to start using words despite what seems to be otherwise typical development” (Lowry, 2016). There is a lot we don’t know about “late talkers,” but research has given us some factors to consider. 

  • Early intervention is key

You may have heard pediatricians and other professionals say, “Wait and see!” when it comes to developmental milestones. However, the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that language acquisition is most rapid during the first 5 years of life. During this time, children’s brains are as malleable as they will ever be. Therefore, we want to intervene sooner rather than later when children are at that optimal learning age.  

  • Genetics play a role

Children with a positive family history of language disorders are more likely to have difficulties. In addition, boys are more likely to be late talkers than girls! 

  • Pre-linguistic behaviors

Pre-linguistic behaviors include nonverbal communication. Examples include facial expressions, gestures, and pointing. Children are expected to use pre-linguistic behaviors before they use verbal communication. If these pre-linguistic behaviors are absent, then verbal communication is more likely to be delayed.