The Late Talker
When is late talking simply a matter of temperament and not a symptom of a neurological or learning disorder?
The first step in assessment is to see your pediatrician and rule out physical problems like deafness. Next, you may need to take your child to be assessed by someone qualified in language disorders. Camarata cautions parents to be sure they find someone very skilled at assessment. Such a person should be familiar with the different disorders associated with late talking and differentiate between them. Camarata specifically urges parents to beware the assessor who gives each patient the same diagnosis. A specialist should also be able to discern when a certain behavior is a coping mechanism or a sign of frustration by a child unable or unwilling to communicate with a stranger, and when it’s the symptom of bona-fide autism, for example, or when language intervention may be needed before a more accurate diagnosis can be made.
Parents should take an active part in the process. You know your children best; you see things in day-to-day activity in many environments and situations that an assessor will not in a few hours, often in an unfamiliar environment. Bring your observations and concerns to your doctor. Ask questions; voice objections. If you do not agree with a diagnosis, and if the doctor or therapist cannot explain herself to your satisfaction, get a second or even third opinion. Do some research yourself, contact other families of late talkers, and meet families with kids who may share the same problems as your child.
The most important thing you can do for your late-talking child, be he autistic or the next Albert Einstein, is to simply love him and appreciate his uniqueness, beauty—and brains. Late talkers often have average or higher intelligence; they just express it differently.
“Remember, too, that you did not cause (late talking). Do not feel guilty or so nervous that you forget to enjoy your child,” said Camarata, who is also the father of seven, one of whom was a late talker. “Don’t get caught up in a label or a diagnosis. Children are full of wonder. Play with them. Talk with them. Be sure to have fun.”
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