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Late Talkers Not at Risk for Behavior Problems Later On

Late-Talking Children May Have Behavioral and Emotional Issues as Toddlers, but Not as Teens

Early Intervention for Late Talkers continued...

"A 50% delay for a kid expected to have 50 words is far different than a kid expected to have thousands of words," she says. "At age 4, if your child remains delayed, they still have enough words to get their needs met.

"A 50% delay is far more deleterious and troublesome to the 2-year-old," she says. This helps explain why late talkers with no other issues will outgrow behavioral and emotional issues linked to frustration about their inability to communicate and be understood.

"Reassuringly, the study found that expressive language delay was not a risk factor for later emotional and behavioral problems," says Andrew Adesman, MD, the chief of developmental & behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park.

Most children express themselves verbally soon after birth and speak their first word or words at one year. "Between the first and second birthday, we expect children to progress from one to 50 words," he says.

"For children who are not meeting those milestones, the first question is are there are any difficulties understanding language and can they follow a simple command such as 'bring me a toy,'" he says. Other receptive language milestones include being able to point to body parts.

"The kids who we worry about most are those with receptive language delays and socialization difficulty," he says.

Briggs adds: "Concerned parents should keep a language diary and write down each new word that their child says so they do not over- or underestimate the number of words their child has when the pediatrician asks about language development," she says.

"Speak to your pediatrician or trusted child development specialist and make sure their child is hearing OK, and there is not a more serious language disorder that is not only affecting them now, but may affect them later on," she says.

The researchers did account for certain factors linked to speech and behavioral issues such as mom's age and education level, income, smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy, but they did not account for maternal depression, she says.

Maternal depression is predictor of language delay, she says. "We know that if moms are depressed they are less likely to chat up their toddlers all day," she says.

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