Is your child a late talker? Do you want to help them, but aren’t sure where to start?
Are you a speech language pathologist who works with late talkers? Would you like to boost your goal writing and target just what they need in therapy sessions?
Late Talker, Defined
A late talker is typically defined as a child 18 months old or older with 20 words or fewer. They typically have only an expressive language delay (a delay building vocabulary and grammar). But all other areas of development are within the typically developing range (other areas of development could include: social, adaptive, play skills, cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills).
The First Step
If you think your child may be a late talker, the first step is to complete a speech and language evaluation. First of all, a speech language pathologist (SLP) will assess your child’s language skills. After the evaluation, your SLP can tell you if your child’s language is developing typically. If not, speech therapy will be recommended. After that, your SLP will develop goals for your child’s time in speech therapy.
A Popular Goal for Late Talkers
A goal I see written often for late talkers is (we’ll be using an imaginary toddler named Susan for this exercise):
Susan will use 50 new vocabulary words within a six-month period of time.
How do I feel about this one? Meh.
This is certainly attainable for many children. Even so, how do you know how many of those words your child knows already? How do you know how many of your child’s words are newly learned? Can it be tracked? Absolutely. However, it would be difficult. What about something more specific and measurable?
For the purposes of this blog post, I won’t write the accuracy or timeline of these goals, since those should be determined by a speech language pathologist based on your child’s needs. Hence, these are draft goals that could be edited (with more information added) for a variety of children.
Suggested Goals for Late Talkers
Why Not Only Focus On Producing Words?
Not all children jump to words. Often, imitation skills will be targeted before (or with) activities to promote learning more words. I wrote a post about imitation in toddlers here.
Therefore, I suggest working on imitation first. In the beginning, any attempt at communication will be rewarded (sign, picture, gesture, babble). Over time, those skills will be shaped into verbal language whenever possible. Remember this takes time and patience.
Goals: Parent Input
As a parent, share your goals for your child. After all, you see your child’s communication on a daily basis. Your SLP should write your child’s goals, but your input is important.
For example, perhaps your child has a favorite food. Maybe your child would love to request her favorite cereal every morning. In that case, let your SLP know that “cereal” would be a helpful word to target. By sharing words your child might frequently say, your SLP can include those targets in speech therapy. This is a big win for everyone: your child, your SLP, and you. After all, our goal is to make what happens in speech therapy be as practical as possible in your child’s day-to-day life.
Keeping Focused on the Important Things
Are goals the most important aspect of speech therapy? I would argue that they are not.
Most of all, it is important that you find a clinician who you trust. Feeling comfortable in speech therapy is important.
Equally important is feeling like you know what your child is working on in speech therapy. Typically at the end of each speech therapy session, you will learn what to work on at home for the following week. Since you will be working with your child at home, this is an essential part of your speech therapy session.
Do You Know Your Child’s Speech Goals?
There are many more great goals for late talkers out there that haven’t been listed in this post. This is not an exhaustive list. Even so, I’ve found this list has been a great start and an excellent reference in my own practice. I hope this list has been helpful for you, too.
If you are currently working with an SLP, make it your goal this week to learn more about your child’s speech therapy goals. This will help you, your child, and your SLP. As an SLP, I love it when parents I work with want more information about what is happening in speech therapy. I hope this post has given you the information you need to feel confident looking at your child’s speech goals and giving input on the process. All the best!