August 23, 2008

Late-Talking Toddlers Catch Up By Age 7

Eighty percent of children with language delays at age 2 will catch up by age 7, U.S. and Australian researchers said.

However, this also means that for 20 percent of late-talking toddlers, language delays persist, said study leader Mabel Rice of the University of Kansas -- who has been working with colleagues at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, to study the language development of single and twin children.

Beginning with a study of 1,766 toddlers, the researchers found that boys are three times as likely as girls to be late-talking toddlers, but by age 7, the differences disappeared.

"Some kind of mechanism kicks in for the boys," Rice said in a statement.

Rice said she thinks the findings give a mixed message to parents worried about their child's language development.

"For children who are still late talkers in school, it is important to provide early intervention and enrichment," Rice said. "Parents should contact a speech pathologist if they have any concerns."

By age 2, children should have a vocabulary of about 50 words and should be starting to combine those words in two- or three-word sentences.

The findings appear in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research.