Parents often look forward to celebrating their child’s developmental milestones such as coos, babbles, or first words. Altered pronunciations or “toddlerisms” may provide amusement as young children are learning to talk.

But language acquisition can also be a source of concern for some families. While every child develops at their own pace, missed milestones can be indicative of a language delay or disorder, both of which have the best outcomes when identified and treated early.

At Aurora Speech Clinic, our speech therapy team has a number of areas of clinical focus, including treatment for language delays. Aurora Speech Clinic serves York Region with pediatric speech therapy.

If your child has a language delay or disorder, we can help.

What is a Language Delay or Disorder?

Language delay refers to a situation in which a child’s language development is slower than what is considered typical for their age.

Children with language delays often follow a similar developmental trajectory as their peers but at a slower pace. Language delays can be temporary.

Many children with language delays eventually acquire language skills appropriate to their age with the help of interventions, such as speech therapy.

Language disorder, on the other hand, refers to a more persistent difficulty with language development that is not solely due to a delay.

Children with language disorders may have significant and ongoing challenges in acquiring language skills. These may include difficulties with understanding and using language, forming sentences, and communicating effectively.

Language disorders may require more intensive and long term interventions, such as speech therapy, to help children improve their language skills.

Either way, it’s important to seek professional evaluation and guidance if you have concerns about your child’s language development, as early intervention can be crucial in both cases.

Is My Child a “Late Talker”?

Toddlers who show signs of late language emergence (LLE) are often referred to as late talkers or late language learners.

Late talkers are children who exhibit a delay in their expressive language development. They typically have a limited vocabulary and struggle to use words and phrases to communicate effectively, especially when compared to their peers of the same age.

Late talkers often catch up and develop normal language skills without any long term difficulties, but some may require intervention to support their language development.

If you are concerned about a child who may be a late talker, it’s a good idea to seek guidance from a speech-language pathologist. They can provide a comprehensive evaluation and offer appropriate strategies and interventions to support the child’s language development.

Here are some key points to understand about late talkers.

Definition Of Late Talkers

Late talkers are generally considered to be children who have a limited number of words in their vocabulary and show delays in combining words into phrases compared to their peers. The exact criteria for identifying late talkers can vary.

Typical Development

Children typically start using single words around 12 to 15 months of age. They typically begin combining words into two-word phrases by around 18 to 24 months. Late talkers typically exhibit delays in reaching these milestones.

What Causes Delays?

The causes of late talking can vary. Some children may simply have a slower pace of language development without any underlying issues. Others may have factors such as a family history of late talking, limited exposure to language, or a temporary language delay due to other developmental factors.

Monitoring And Evaluation

It is essential to monitor a late talker’s progress and consult with a speech-language pathologist. They can assess the child’s language skills, identify any underlying causes, and determine whether intervention is necessary.


Intervention for late talkers may involve speech therapy, which focuses on improving the child’s communication skills. Therapy may include activities to enhance vocabulary development, improve sentence structure, and foster communication skills through play and interaction.

Positive Outlook

Many late talkers catch up to their peers in terms of language development by the time they reach school age. The majority of late talkers do not have long term language difficulties or cognitive impairments. However, early intervention is crucial to support their language development and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to the delay.

How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Language Delays And Disorders?

Speech-language pathologists play a crucial role in supporting individuals with language delays and disorders across the lifespan.

They use a variety of techniques and interventions to assess, identify, and treat language related difficulties.

Here’s how speech therapists help support individuals with language delays and disorders.

Speech Therapy Assessment

SLPs begin by conducting comprehensive assessments to identify the nature and severity of the language delay or disorder. This assessment may include standardized tests, informal observations, interviews with parents or caregivers, and medical history reviews.


Based on the assessment results, SLPs determine the specific type of language delay or disorder the individual is experiencing which helps guide the development of a tailored treatment plan.

Individualized Treatment Plans

SLPs create individualized treatment plans that address the unique needs and goals of each client. These plans are based on the assessment findings and may focus on areas such as vocabulary development, grammar skills, social communication, and more.

Speech And Language Therapy

SLPs provide one on one therapy sessions that target specific language difficulties. They use evidence based techniques and strategies to improve language skills, including articulation, phonology, syntax, and semantics. Therapy may involve activities such as games, exercises, and conversation practice.

Early Intervention

For children with language delays, early intervention is crucial. SLPs work with infants and toddlers to address speech and language issues as soon as they are identified, often in collaboration with parents and other healthcare professionals.

Communication Strategies

SLPs teach individuals and their families effective communication strategies. This can include alternative communication methods such as sign language or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices for individuals who have difficulty with verbal communication.

Parent And Caregiver Training

SLPs often involve parents and caregivers in the therapy process. They provide guidance and support to help families understand the nature of the language delay or disorder and how they can support their loved one’s communication development at home.

Multidisciplinary Collaboration

SLPs often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as pediatricians, psychologists, and occupational therapists, to provide comprehensive care for individuals with language disorders, especially when these disorders are part of a broader clinical picture.

What Are The Expected Language Development Milestones?

By 12 Months Old

By the time your child reaches their first birthday, they are expected to be able to:

  • Look in the direction of sounds
  • Look in the direction you point
  • Understand words for things in their daily life (ball, truck, mama)
  • Understand simple one or two word phrases
  • Play games like peekaboo and patty cake
  • Listen to stories
  • Babble long sounds
  • Communicate with gestures (e.g. hello, point at things they want, shake head yes or no, etc.)
  • Say a couple of words

By 24 Months Old

By the time your child reaches their second birthday, they are expected to be able to:

  • Point to a few body parts when you name them
  • Point to or name pictures in a book (e.g. point to the apple)
  • Follow simple one part directions (e.g. pick up the ball, give this to daddy, etc.)
  • Answer simple questions (e.g. where is the ball? What are you holding? etc.)
  • Have a vocabulary of around 50 words
  • Put words together in short sentences (e.g. apple please, daddy ball, what’s that? etc.)
  • Use the speech sounds ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘m’, ‘h’, and ‘w’ in words with ease

By 3 Years Old

By the time your child reaches their third birthday, they are expected to be able to:

  • Start understanding opposites (e.g. fast and slow, tall or short, hot or cold, etc.)
  • Follow two part directions (e.g. pick up the ball and throw it to me)
  • Start understanding new words fairly quickly
  • Be easily understood by people who know them well (e.g. caregivers, siblings)
  • Talk about objects they can’t see
  • Create three word sentences
  • Understand words like ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘over’, etc.
  • Start asking ‘why?’
  • Use the speech sounds ‘k’, ‘g’, ‘f’, ‘t’, ‘d’, and ‘n’ in words with ease

By 4 Years Old

By the time your child reaches their fourth birthday, they are expected to be able to:

  • Ask and answer simple questions built around who, what, where, when, or how
  • Start understanding the difference between singular and plural
  • Answer when you call them
  • Start understanding the names of colours
  • Start understanding the names of basic geometric shapes
  • Start understanding how words rhyme
  • Start understanding basic pronouns
  • Be understood by most people, even strangers
  • Start making sentences of 4 or more words
  • Describe their day in short sentences (may be repetitive or with mistakes, e.g. I goed to the zoo. I saw a bear. I saw a goat. I saw a lion.)

By 5 Years Old

By the time your child reaches their fifth birthday, they are expected to be able to:

  • Start understanding the order of things (e.g. first, next, last, etc.)
  • Start understanding time based words (e.g. yesterday, today, tomorrow, etc.)
  • Understand the names for letters and numbers
  • Talk without repeating sounds or words much
  • Use sentences with more than one verb
  • Tell a short story
  • Repeat what they said when asked
  • Follow simple directions in classroom activities (e.g. circle the tiger on your sheet)
  • Use all speech sounds with relative ease, though may still make mistakes with ‘l’, ‘s’, ‘r’, ‘v’, ‘z’, ‘th’, ‘sh’, or ‘ch’
  • Start understanding how to speak in different ways (e.g. using simpler sentences with younger kids, yelling to be heard in a noisy area, etc.)

Book Your Appointment With Aurora Speech Clinic Today

Language delays and disorders are as diverse and unique as the people who have them.

Early support and appropriate treatment can make a significant difference in learning, self confidence, and overall success.

To help your child build their communication skills, contact us. 

No doctor’s referral is required. 

Book your appointment with Aurora Speech Clinic today