Posts Tagged ‘ children’s language development ’

“Late Talkers”: When Is “Wait And See” A Reasonable Strategy?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Many parents of young children grew up during an era when the “wait and see” approach to developmental delay was the primary philosophy. Today, it is highly recommended that parents follow the principles of “Learn The Signs. Act Early.”  As my fellow blogger Jill Cordes pointed out to me last month (in response to one of my blog posts on early screening for autism), this emphasis on developmental screening is not only important for detecting problems in the earliest stages – but also for determining when delay does not warrant intervention and “wait and see” is appropriate.

Take the case of two-year-olds who are “late talkers.” If a comprehensive developmental screening does not reveal any issues beyond the lag in expressive language (measured in terms of number of words spoken), it may indeed be the case that delay is just reflecting normal variation and intervention is not necessary. Furthermore, a new study suggests that, contrary to early speculations in the literature, “late talkers” – defined as being at or below the 15the percentile (gender referenced) in terms of expressive language at two years of age AND not showing any other signs of developmental delay – do not show evidence of behavioral and emotional problems through seventeen years of age (a longitudinal design was used to conduct follow-up evaluations at 5, 8, 10, 14, and 17 years of age).

This study is important because the toddlers with delay at age 2 did, at that time, demonstrate elevated levels of behavioral and emotional problems. These problems, however, were shown to decline over time, presumably in concert with catch-up in language skills. The researchers speculate that for these toddlers the behavioral and emotional issues were a reaction to the frustrations of the delay, and were not attributable to other underlying causes.

To be clear, the take-home message of this research is that developmental screening is an important tool for evaluating the big picture when babies and toddlers show delays. It can help resolve when specific isolated delays may not signal the need for intervention. And of course it can guide clinicians and parents to seek out further evaluation and if necessary early intervention when appropriate. It can bring some clarity to what used to be a much fuzzier issue (it’s not a perfect science, but it is continuously improving in accuracy). These are the reasons that “Learn the Signs. Act Early” is the philosophy of choice for parents.

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Interacting With Your Child: There’s No App For That!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Remember the expression “talk is cheap”? Well, there’s a new twist to that — talking to your child doesn’t cost anything, yet it’s one of the most powerful ways to stimulate their cognitive development.

I’ve been thinking about this since my last post, which focused on the benefits of having a “language-based” bedtime routine for toddlers. What was interesting is that toddlers who had a bedtime routine that featured any type of parental talk — examples included telling a story, reading a book, singing, praying — not only had longer sleep two years later, but also more advanced receptive vocabulary.

So the simple act of having daily devoted time for parent-child interaction achieved what many parents look for in technology — promotion of cognitive development.

I make this point to amplify the idea that in this age of ever expanding electronic opportunities for children of all ages (even babies), there is no substitute for uninterrupted and natural interaction between a parent and child. To be clear, I’m not opposed to technology, and in fact endorse including it as part of a toddler’s everyday life (click here to see my previous thoughts on this topic). It’s just that I’d like to encourage you to enjoy some downtime with your kid (without any devices on) and do what comes naturally — talk, laugh, sing, read, whatever. These are the things you will remember when your child is older. And as an added bonus, you’ll also be doing good things for your child’s brain.

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery via

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