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Why Isn’t MyChild Talking? Late Talker vs Autism: Help Understanding the Difference

As a speech therapist, I constantly get asked “Do you think something else is going on with my child?” or “What is causing their speech and language delay?” The answer for most speech delays is often unknown. There are times when the cause is known, such as from hearing loss, being born prematurely, or genetics. Most therapists prefer their patients under the age of 3 to receive at least 6 months of therapy before ruling out autism and pursuing outside testing to determine any additional cause for the delay. However, if there are enough red flags something else may be going on, thorough neurophysiological evaluation is always recommended as soon as possible. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the most common signs and symptoms of a late talker versus a child with autism.

Things to know as a parent

Being a late talker and having autism are not the only two reasons why your child is not talking. This is simply a comparison of the most commonly confused reasons your child may not be talking.  It should also be known that no two children with autism have identical signs and symptoms. A speech delay is an early indicator of ASD in young children, but it is NOT the only signifier. Every child is unique. It is often said “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.” The opposite is often said for late talkers. Most late talkers present similarly and are still able to communicate through gestures and body movements. They have better receptive language and play skills as compared to those with ASD. To be considered a true late talker, the only thing your child is going through is a delay in expressive language skills. The good news is that speech-language pathologists and many other professionals can help your child achieve their true potential, whether they are a late talker, have autism, or any other speech/language delay.

– Madison Warrick, SLP