American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Parents: Don't Hope Your Child Will Just Outgrow An Early Language Problem

Although Recent Study Says Wait, Other Research Points To The Major Benefits Of Being Proactive

(Rockville, MD - July 8, 2011)  

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is urging parents to consider the potential negative impact that having "a wait and see" approach can have for the communication development of children who are late talkers.

ASHA is raising its concerns in response to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, titled "Late Talking and the Risk for Psychosocial Problems During Childhood and Adolescence."

The study, which focused on late-talking 2-year-olds, found that early language delays do not necessarily lead to later behavioral and emotional problems, and it encourages being patient with late talkers. However, the study, conducted in Western Australia, did not address the full continuum of communication and other areas of development.

The authors of the study indicated that they did not include a measure of receptive language (understanding) or include children with social communication problems. Therefore, the results of the study should not be generalized beyond the parameters studied: 2-year-olds with expressive vocabulary delays and later behavior and emotional problems.

Other major research in the field of communication sciences and disorders demonstrates that early spoken language problems can lead to later problems with reading and writing, school learning, and social skills (see http://podcast.asha.org/2008/10/14/episode-13-the-value-of-early-intervention-for-late-talking-children/ and http://jslhr.asha.org/cgi/content/abstract/52/1/16).

This additional research results suggest that slow language development at 24–31 months is associated with a weakness in language-related skills into adolescence relative to skills manifested by typically developing peers. Additionally, early problems with communication and social interactions are often the first signs of autism. 

ASHA is encouraging parents to take action if they have concerns about their child's language development. Don't wait—seek help from a speech-language pathologist. Early identification and intervention can help children develop speech and language skills and prevent negative consequences, including difficulties with academics and social relationships.

For more information about speech and language disorders and prevention, visit www.asha.org. To find a speech-language pathologist in your local area, go to ProSearch at www.asha.org/findpro/.

About Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists work with diagnostic and educational evaluation teams to provide comprehensive language and speech assessments for students. Services to students with speech-language disorders may be provided in individual or small group sessions, in classrooms when teaming with teachers, or in a consultative model with teachers and parents. Speech-language pathologists integrate students' speech-language goals with academic outcomes and functional performance.

About ASHA
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 145,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, diagnose, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders.

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