Is my Kid a Late Talker or Just Autistic? 7 Ways to Know

speech delayed child

Comparing Late Talkers Vs Autism

Late talking could be caused by different things such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, apraxia or hearing loss. For autistic children, other than they not being able to express themselves through speech, they will also have a problem communicating through gestures or body movement.

Sometimes back, assessing whether a child had autism or was just a late talker could only be done between 3 to 4 years. Current research though, shows that things can be done earlier so that early intervention can come in.

This is because for late talkers, they are still able to communicate through gestures and body movement. Their pretend play is also more defined. They have a better receptive language skill as compared to those with ASD The only thing they are going through is late language emergence. It can be cured through speech therapy or intentionally introducing new vocabularies to the child.

According to this study published by Rhea Paul, Katyrzyna Chawarska and Fred Volkmar, here are the similarities between children on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those with developmental language disorder (DLD).

ActivityComparing late talker vs autism
Eye contact and copying othersLater Talker=Autism
Use of expressive languageLate talker=Autism
Receptive languageAutism<Late talker
Use of gesturesLate talker>Autism
Pretend playAutism<Late talker
Signs of repetitive movementsAutism >Late talker
Unusual sounds and vocalizationsAutism >Late talker
speech therapy
Picture of cute little boy at speech therapist office, sitting with his father next to him during the day.

When your child shows signs of speech delay, the first thought that crosses your mind is that they are autistic. And that thought causes a stream of cold sweat run down your spine because you know that ASD has no cure. Well, in this post, we want to demystify the difference between late talkers vs autism. Because the two are not the same things.

Read on: Signs that your autistic child will speak

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins right from childhood and continues all the way to their adulthood. Some of the key characteristics include:

  • Poor social interaction
  • Poor eye contact
  • Delay in speech
  • Abnormal tone of voice
  • Abnormal body posturing and facial expressions
  • Repetitive patterns or behaviors

Late talking on the other hand is where the child does not display language milestones like other children. They tend not to babble when they should, develop a mastery of words and sentences but they will end up catching up with the other kids as they age.

Having said that all autistic children display late talking but not all late talkers are autistic.

How can I encourage my 2 year old to talk

Children learn talking through play. You could get your kid a load of toys and encourage them to play with others so as to develop speech in the process.

You could ask your baby to help out in the kitchen and instruct them to pour out water, bring the plate and demonstrate it to them what you mean if they have a problem grasping what you are saying.

You also need to imitate them so that they learn that you appreciate what  they are doing.

What is a late talker?

A late talker according to is a toddler between the age of 18 to 30 months who has good play, thinking and social skills but has limited vocabulary for their age.

You can see the characteristis of a late talker here.

late talker being talk to pronounce words
A young female Speech Therapist sits on the floor with her hand on her chin as she helps her young patient with his speech. She is dressed in semi-casual clothing and working with the young boy using a story book that is open in her hand. The boy is dressed casually and seated cross-legged on the floor as he looks up at the therapist and copies her words with his hand on his own chin.

How can I help my child with speech delay?

The first thing that you need to do in helping your child with speech delay is make sure that they are hearing. You can do this by going to an ENT specialist to have their ears inspected. Once it is established that they are hearing and the only thing bringing them down is language delay, you can sign up for a session with a speech therapist in your area.

Home remedies involve the following:

  • Play therapy where the kid plays with others as they talk
  • Imitate your kid as they babble or make sounds
  • Try out music with them

What causes a child to have a speech delay?

Speech delay can be caused by many reasons such as:

  • Autism
  • Language impairment
  • Hearing disability
  • Intellectual disability
  • It could also be caused by introduction of screen time at a tender age.

Can a child have speech delay and not be autistic?

Yes a kid can have speech delay and not be autistic. The only thing affecting late talkers is language impairment, hearing difficulty or simple delay. Autistic kids will have speech delay, doing things repetitively as well as poor social interaction. All autistic kids have late talking but late talkers do not have autism.

going through a speech therapy session
A female speech therapist works with a handsome elementary-age boy in a clinic setting. He is holding a mirror and watching himself pronounce each syllable.

How many words should a 2.5 year old say?

A 2.5 year old should be able to say at least 200 words and at most 1000 words. They should say a phrase of two words for example “More milk”, “My mommy”, “My papa”. Family members and caregivers should be able to understand their words.

Related: Child Not talking at 4. What to do

What is considered late talking?

Late talking is observed early when a child does not make language milestones at the expected times. Normally a kid is supposed to start babbling at the age of six months.

What is the Einstein Syndrome?

Named after the famous scientist Albert Einstein, who was himself a late talker, the syndrome affects mostly boys who are born to parents who are either engineers, professional musicians, mathematicians or just scientists who are late talkers but end up becoming either musicians or scientists themselves. Children who have the syndrome will babble limited and isolated words, love puzzles as well as show great memory. In school, they tend to be difficult especially if they deem the things they are learning in class as simple and too boring.

If you are suspecting that your kid could fall into this category, maybe you need to grab this book called the Einstein Syndrome by Thomas Sowell whose son was a late talker and was labelled as a retard and even an autistic.  You can also check out this article about the einstein syndrome for gifted children who are late talkers. Later on, he encourages the boy to talk through recording his voice when he babbles as well as going out with him more often and some speech therapy lessons

Check our post on toys for speech delayed kids here