Late talking, what does that mean exactly?

Late talking, what does that mean exactly?

Often doctors will sometimes label kids “late talkers”, but what does it mean exactly? And when will your baby catch up and no longer be a “late talker”. Late talking just means that their expressive vocabulary is behind that of their peers. This is your doctor’s way of reassuring you that your baby will catch up to their peers. But there are also children who have been “late talkers” that had difficulty catching up. So where does your child fall? Well, studies have shown that a toddler’s ability to understand others (receptive language) is a better predictor of their expressive language outcome than their ability to express words. However, receptive language can be tricky to assess and a licensed SLP should be the one to assess these skills to help provide the best treatment plan to help your child. If you are unsure of where your child should be at look no further!

What should my child be doing?

As always, the developmental milestone charts are mildly flexible and you shouldn’t be worried if your child is one or two months off. This period of time for children is an exponential growth period for speech and language. They will go from one day saying two words to the next day saying 50! Here are some developmental norms for what your child should be doing as well as some activities that you can do at home to promote speech and language.

Four – Six months

Moves eyes in the direction of soundsCoos and babbles when playing alone or with you
Responds to changes in your tone of voiceMakes speech-like babbling sounds like pa, ba, and mi
Notices toys that make soundsGiggles and laughs
Pays attention to musicMakes sounds when they are happy or upset

What you can do at home: respond to your child when they make noises, imitate the sounds back to them, imitate the faces they make, teach them to imitate actions (e.g., peek a boo, bye-bye, blowing kisses), and laugh when they do.

Seven months – 1 year

Turns and looks in the direction of soundsBabbles long strings of sounds, like mimi upup babababa.
Looks when you pointUses sounds and gestures to get and keep attention.
Turns when you call their namePoints to objects and shows them to others.
Understands words for common items/people (e.g., cup, truck, juice, daddy)Uses gestures like waving bye, reaching for “up,” and shaking his head no.
Starts to respond to simple words/phrases (e.g., no, come here, want more?)Imitates different speech sounds. 
Plays games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cakeSays 1 or 2 words, like hidogdadamama, or uh-oh. This will happen around his first birthday, but sounds may not be clear.
Listens to songs and stories for a short time 

What you can do at home: talk about what you are doing during the day (e.g., “you are eating peas – YUM), talk about where you are going, what you do there, and what/who you will see (e.g., we are going to grandma’s house. She has a dog and you can pet the dog), teach animal sounds, read every day to your child, and talk to them in the language you are most comfortable using.

One – Two years

Points to a few body parts when you askUses a lot of new words.
Follows 1-part directions, like “Roll the ball” or “Kiss the baby.”Uses pbmh, and w in words.
Responds to simple questions, like “Who’s that?” or “Where’s your shoe?”Asks questions, like “What’s that?”, “Who’s that?”, and “Where’s kitty?” 
Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.Puts 2 words together, like “more apple,” “no bed,” and “mommy book.”
Points to pictures in a book when you name them.Starts to name pictures in books.

What you can do at home: talk to your child as you do things and go places, use short grammatically correct words/sentences that your child can imitate, talk about environmental sounds you hear in the house or outside, play with sounds during bath time, add words to what your child says (e.g., if the child says “dog” you can say “yeah that is a big brown dog”), read to your child every day and while reading talk about the pictures in the book rather than focusing on the words, and have them point to/name the pictures you name in the book.


Fisher, E. L. (2017). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Predictors of Expressive-Language Outcomes Among Late Talkers. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research60(10), 2935–2948. doi: 10.1044/2017_jslhr-l-16-0310

Birth to One Year. (n.d.). Retrieved from

One to Two Years. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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