Popular misconceptions regarding communication delays in boys, bilingual children, and younger siblings may prevent these groups from getting the help they need. All children who show early warning signs of a delay should immediately be referred for a developmental screening by a speech-language pathologist. Developmental screenings are typically free and last approximately 15 minutes. Early detection and treatment give children with communication delays a greater chance of improving with speech therapy.

Misconception #1: It is normal for boys to show delays in speech and language. While boys tend to acquire communication skills at a slower rate than girls, they should still fall within the typical age range for major milestones. Any signs of a communication delay in both boys and girls should be addressed in a timely manner.

Misconception #2: Bilingual children talk later than monolingual children. Bilingual children will reach communication milestones at the same pace as their monolingual peers, with first words appearing around 11 to 14 months. Total vocabulary growth is the same between typically developing bilingual and monolingual children when every language is taken into account.

Misconception #3: Younger siblings talk later because their older siblings talk for them.  All children are motivated to communicate their own needs and wants as soon as they can. Studies have shown that there are no differences in general communication development between first-born children and later-born children.Communication delays, ranging from hearing and oral-motor issues to difficulties with language comprehension and production, can be detected within the first year. If an infant does not seem to respond to sounds or faces, or is not producing age-appropriate coos, babbles, or words, refer him or her for a screening. Pediatric therapy clinics typically offer free developmental screenings to help all children reach their fullest potential. For additional information on early communication development, please visit Pathways.org.

Pathways.org is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing free resources and information for health professionals and families on children’s motor, sensory, and communication development. The Pathways.org Baby Growth and Development Chart has been recognized and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and additional educational materials are available online to download, copy, and share freely. For more information, please visit Pathways.org, email friends@pathways.org, or call our toll-free parent-answered hotline at 1-800-955-CHILD (2445).