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Language Delays

February 29, 2012

Screening criteria for language delays in children depend on the culture.



Global language screening…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Not all kids start talking at the same time, but it’s important to identify those who are delayed. That’s because delayed speech in toddlers is a risk factor for language and reading difficulties later, and can sometimes be a sign of autism or mental retardation.UniversityofNew Mexicodevelopmental psychologist Philip Dale says for American English, if a child isn’t speaking 25 distinct words by the age of 2, it could be a sign of a delay. But he adds that screening criteria for late talkers depend on the culture.

PHILIP DALE (UniversityofNew Mexico):

For example, the word “chocolate” is acquired earlier for Mexican Spanish speaking children than American English speakers. On the other hand, American English speakers learn the word “rain” before Mexican children do.  We can’t take norms of one country and apply them to another.


What’s more, Dale says some languages, such as Danish, seem to be harder to begin speaking than other languages, like American English. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.