Late Language Emergence

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a critical role in providing services to families and their children who are at risk for developing, or who already demonstrate, delays or disabilities in language-related play and symbolic behaviors, communication, language, and speech. The professional roles and activities of the SLP include prevention and advocacy, clinical services (screening, assessment, and diagnosis; planning, implementing, and monitoring treatment), consultation and education, service coordination and transition planning, administration, and research. See ASHA's Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016).

Appropriate roles for SLPs include

  • providing prevention information to the families of children and groups known to be at risk for LLE, as well as to individuals working with those at risk;
  • educating family members about the importance of early communication development and intervention and the family's role in their child's communication development;
  • counseling families of late talkers regarding communication-related issues and providing education aimed at preventing further complications relating to LLE;
  • educating other professionals about the needs of late talkers and the role of SLPs in identifying and managing LLE;
  • collaborating with pediatricians to highlight the value of surveillance and ongoing screening for late talkers;
  • screening children for the presence of language and communication difficulties and identifying the need for further assessment and/or referral for other services;
  • recognizing that late talkers have heightened risks for later language and literacy problems;
  • conducting a comprehensive, culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment of language and communication;
  • taking into consideration the rules of a spoken dialect or accent, typical dual-language acquisition from birth, and sequential second-language acquisition to distinguish difference from disorder;
  • understanding potential situational bias and test-item bias in assessment;
  • diagnosing the presence of a language disorder;
  • referring to other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine etiology, and facilitate access to comprehensive services;
  • making decisions about the management of LLE;
  • developing treatment plans, providing direct and indirect treatment, documenting progress, and determining appropriate dismissal criteria;
  • consulting and collaborating with other professionals, family members, caregivers, and others to facilitate program development and to provide supervision, evaluation, or expert testimony, as appropriate;
  • serving as an integral member of interdisciplinary teams that work with late talkers and their families/caregivers;
  • serving as a service coordinator to ensure that eligible children and families receive appropriate services mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2004);
  • facilitating the transition process for families moving from one program to another (e.g., home-based to center-based, early intervention to community-based preschool);
  • remaining informed of research in the area of LLE and helping advance the knowledge base related to the nature and treatment of LLE;
  • advocating for late talkers and their families at the local, state, and national levels;
  • providing quality control and risk management.

As indicated in the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2010), SLPs who serve this population should be specifically educated and appropriately trained to do so. They require knowledge of the variability characterizing typical development, as well as the normal variations in interactive styles associated with language development and successful communication. Careful consideration of the influence of sociocultural factors on communicative interactions and language development is also essential.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.