Late Talkers – When should my child start talking?

By Anna Foran – Certified Practising Speech Pathologist


Children develop skills at different rates. Some children might start walking earlier than others, while some children might start talking later than others.

At what point does a child become a ‘late talker’, and when should you see a speech pathologist?

What is a late talker?

A late talker is a toddler who is aged between 18-30 months and commonly:

  • has a good understanding of language (spoken words)
  • has appropriate play skills, motor skills (movement), thinking skills, and social skills
  • doesn’t talk very much or at all

Approximately 13% of two-year-olds are late talkers.

 What do late talkers need support with?

There are many aspects to communication development. Late talkers may have difficulties in:

  • Understanding words and meanings of instructions or phrases (this is called receptive language)
  • Using words to express needs, wants and thoughts (this is called expressive language)
  • Articulating words (pronouncing sounds in words or babble)

Risk factors for late talkers include:

  • Gender – males are more at risk
  • Family history of speech-language difficulties
  • Being born at less than 37 weeks gestation

When should my child start saying words?

While children develop their communication skills at different rates, there are some communication milestones to consider. A child may benefit from a speech pathology assessment if they haven’t reached the following milestones:

18 months:

  • say 20 words including nouns (e.g. ‘car’), verbs (e.g. ‘go’), prepositions (e.g. ‘up’), and social words (e.g. ‘bye’)
  • copy words and noises
  • name a few body parts

24 months:

  • say more than 50 words
  • put two words together (e.g. ‘eat cookie’)
  • say ‘no’, ‘mine’, and ‘my’

Queensland Health have developed a guide to identifying red flags for children between 0 to 5 years of age in social emotional development, communication development, cognition and self-care, and motor skills. Follow the link below to access this document:

The Speech Pathology Australia website also has free resources on communication milestones between 0 to 5 years of age. Follow the link below to access these documents:

When should I see a speech pathologist?

If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, it is never too early to see a speech pathologist.

Book a speech pathology appointment if your child hasn’t met some of the communication milestones above. A speech pathologist will do an assessment with your child to identify difficulties in your child’s communication skills, and make recommendations for further therapy options.



Lowry, L. (2016). How to tell if Your Child is a Late Talker – and What to Do about It. The Hanen Centre.,for%20his%20or%20her%20age

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. (2008, May 16). Mixed Results For Late-talking Toddlers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from