Famous Late Talkers: It is not Always Autism

While Albert Einstein was arguably one of the most intelligent scientists that ever graced the face of the earth, it is interesting to note that he was a late talker. Yes, it is actually said that he did not speak till the age of four. And he was only fully eloquent when he turned nine.

albert Einstein was a late talker himself

Children who talk late and do not have autism, hearing problems, cognition or motor problems are said to have the Einstein syndrome. According to Thomas Sowell, writer of The Einstein Syndrome, children with this syndrome have the following characteristics:

  • Outstanding analytical and musical skills
  • Outstanding memory
  • Selective interest
  • Delayed potty training
  • Strong willed
  • Ability to use numbers, read or use a computer
  • Extreme concentration on the task at hand

Not that Einstein was autistic but he would just not express himself verbally until he was at that ripe age of four. This Albert Einstein story is probably one of the most quoted speech and language delay success story where the child finally was able to talk,catch up with peers and even turn out to be an extremely gifted person.

Now according to American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), a late talker (like Einstein) has what is called late language emergence and a speech pathologist should be involved to determine that is what your child is facing. For late language emergence to be ruled out, we must rule out other developmental disorders such as autism, adhd or hearing problems. To do that, the speech pathologist conducts tests on the cognitive, communication, sensory and motor skills of the child.

Famous Late Talkers like Albert Einstein

Well, other than Albert Einstein, there are other famous people who were late talkers. Probably one book that best documents this amazingly big number of late talkers is ‘The Einstein Syndrome’ by Thomas Sowell.

Thomas Sowell who was an economist had a son who was a late talker. And were it not for this son of his, we would never have that book by Thomas Sowell. He wrote the book and did all the research that he did as he looked for solutions towards his son.

Later on, his boy spoke and is currently an accomplished computer scientist.

Professor Stephen Camarata

As Thomas Sowell does his research, he bumps into Professor Camarata of Vanderbilt University. Professor has done a lot of research on late talkers who are not necessarily on the autism spectrum disorder. What is however the most interesting thing is that Camarata himself was a late talker.

His son too had been said to have intellectual disability and would not make it to college. Later on, he outgrew his late language emergence. It is then that Professor Camarata deduced that other parents might be facing such wrong diagnosis and he decided to do lots of research on the same. He has a support group where he helps parents with late talking children.

Srinivasa Ramanujan

A renowned Mathematician who lived during the British rule in India, Srinivasa Ramanujan was a late talker. It is said that he had no formal training in Mathematics. All he did was find a book written by a Mathematician and used it for his self training. He later made great contribution to number theory, infinite series, continued fractions and mathematical analysis.

Edward Teller

Edward teller also had late language emergence

Edward Teller did not say any meaningful word until he turned four. But well, it is said that he would solve mathematical problems even at that tender age for fun. Later on, he became a reputable mathematician and the father of the hydrogen bomb.

Teller was a late talker. He developed the ability to speak later than most children, but became very interested in numbers, and would calculate large numbers in his head for fun


Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was a famous theoretical physicist who is credited with his works on path integral formulation, quantum mechanics and quantum thermodynamics.

Feynman in a jacket and tie, smiling

He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his research on quantum thermodynamics.

What most physicists who read his works probably do not know is that he was a late talker. He only spoke after his third birthday. As an Adult he spoke with a New York accent which was so exaggerated that his friends called him a bum.

As a child, Richard loved engineering and had a home laboratory at home.

What could cause these famous people not speak till late

According to India today, one of the main causes why these famous people were late talkers is because they lacked adequate stimulation to speak at a young age. It will be noted that their parents were either unavailable or simply too busy to provide the kid with enough verbal stimulation that would cause the child to talk.

The individuals only spoke when they went to preschool and were involved in play groups with other kids who would stimulate them well enough to spark the verbal expressions.

However Professor Stephen Camarata seems to have a divergent opinion and says that late talkers are just going through a developmental phase in their lives and once done with, even the parents might not actually remember the panic and they anguish they were in when their child was not talking.

It is vitally important that parents understand that they did not cause the late talking in their child and that guilt is not only not warranted but also is counterproductive in helping their child learn to talk.

Professor Stephen Camarata

Late Talkers: When to Worry

While it might seem good to think that your child is a gifted late talker who might have the Einstein syndrome and will later outgrow that phase, early intervention has always been a good measure. According to the WebMD, if your kid at 30 months does not speak 50 words, then they can be labeled as late talkers and you should seek expert advice.

15 to 25% of young children have language problems. Some of the causes may be hearing problems, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder or adhd. Late talking is mostly seen in boys. You will need an expert medical personell to correctly determine what your child is battling with.

Thomas Sowell discourages the use of speech therapists before consulting the advice of a medical person since speech therapists are just going to charge you exorbitantly without really looking into the underlying issues facing your child.