you Google “18 month old not talking”, you will find thousands of posts by concerned parents seeking advice about their late-talking toddler. Many of these parents, whose child seems to be developing normally in every other way, say that they are told not to worry, that someone in the family “didn’t talk until they were 3” or that “boys talk late”. Other parents say that their doctor has told them to wait until their child is at least two before seeking help. Often, parents’ gut instinct is to seek help, but others tell them to “wait and see”. After all, wasn’t Einstein late to talk? This can be a very confusing situation for parents who want to do the best for their child.

The “wait-and-see” approach to children who talk late is a result of misconceptions about typical language development. “All children develop at their own pace” is another common phrase parents come across when looking for an explanation for a child’s delayed development. While children do develop at their own pace to some extent, we know that there are certain milestones which should be reached by a specific age. When they are not reached, this becomes cause for concern. While some children seem to catch up on their own, others do not.

Let’s look at what the research tells us about the children we call Late Talkers. Note that in this case, we are not talking about children with physical or developmental delays such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome or Autism, those with childhood apraxia (difficulty coordinating the muscles used to produce speech) or children with a specific difficulty with understanding and producing language, known as “language delay or disorder.”