Language Delay

Language delay is when a child’s ability to understand language or use spoken language is behind the expected level for their age. This umbrella term is very broad, and includes “late talkers” such as 18 month olds who aren’t saying any words, older children who have difficulties understanding instructions in the classroom or are unable to sequence together events to construct a story, and a range of skills in between.

Why is speech therapy important?


Language is the platform that all learning is built from, particularly when a child starts school. It is the medium that almost all other knowledge bases are tested through, for example being able to explain about the differences between the planets for science, or understanding maths problems, require sophisticated language skills, not just knowledge about the topic.


There is a clear correlation between children with language delay and other learning difficulties such as learning to read and write.

What does an assessment for language delay look like?


Children can be assessed for language difficulties across all ages so the assessment varies depending on the child’s age, skill level and the specific concerns raised by the parents. In all assessments, parents get an opportunity to express their concerns for their child and to provide information about their child’s early history.


A language assessment then looks at a child’s comprehension skills or receptive language and compares that to their ability to put words and sentences together (expressive language). There are well-recognised norms for different age groups that can give parents and the speech pathologist an indication of where a child fits compared to their peers, as well as identifying goals for therapy.


Your assessment session concludes with a discussion around the assessment results, and development of therapy goals.

What does speech therapy look like for language delay?


Speech therapy sessions are tailored specifically to the language goals identified in the initial assessment. Depending on a child’s age, therapy sessions are usually conducted using structured play activities so that they are having fun while still getting the intensity of treatment needed for progress to be made.


There are several well-researched approaches to treating children with language delay and your child’s initial assessment will help decide which treatment approach is best for them. Keeping in mind that all children progress at different rates, your Speech Pathologist should then be able to give you some idea of the time expected to reach your therapy goals.