Developmental delay in communication – Risk factors


Developmental delay 12 months of age

Developmental delay in communication

Do you have a 1-3-year-old who is late to talk or shows signs of developmental delay in communication? Perhaps you’re not sure whether you should wait or seek early intervention now?

Ultimately, it can be so hard to determine whether you need to seek professional help now or later. You don’t want to have to go down the route of early intervention if it’s not necessary.

Luckily, there’s lots of research focusing on the field of late talking (aka ‘late language emergence’). The research focuses on signs or symptoms that may indicate ongoing communication delay.

Risk factors:

Research has extensively compared children with communication delays with typically developing children. Researchers looked at variables linked to communication development. As such, specific family and child factors have been widely documented. These factors indicate a child’s risk of ongoing developmental delay or disorder in communication.

These risk factors are:

Child-specific as follows,

  • Gender: As per research, boys are at higher risk for developmental delay in communication than girls (Collison et al., 2016; Horowitz et al., 2003; Klee et al., 1998; Rescorla, 1989, 2002, 2001)
  • Motor development: Children delayed in communication are found to have delayed motor development (in the absence of disorders or syndromes associated with motor delays). As compared with typically developing children (Klee et al., 1998; Rescorla & Alley, 2001).
  • Birth status: Children born at less than 85% of their optimum birth weight OR earlier than 37 weeks gestation are found to be at higher risk for developmental delay in communication/disorder (Zubrick et al., 2007).
  • Early language development: language abilities at 12 months appear to be one of the better predictors of communication skills at 2 years (Reilly et al., 2007).

Family specific as follows,

  • Family history: Children with developmental delay in communication are more likely to have a parent with a history of developmental delay in communication (Collison et al., 2016; Ellis Weismer et al., 1994; Paul, 1991; Rescorla & Schwartz, 1990)
  • Presence of siblings: Children with delay in communication are less likely than children without to be an only child. These findings may reflect decreased maternal resources available to the child (Zubrick et al., 2007).

Reduce the chance of ongoing developmental delay in communication

Developmental delay what to do at home

Additionally, there are also a number of factors that can mitigate children from these risk factors. These are referred to as protective factors, and essentially provide a language and socially rich environment for children! Protective factors for developmental delay in communication are:

  • Sharing and reading books on a daily basis.
  • Providing many opportunities for informal play
  • Exposure to structured and unstructured individual/group play environments and conversations regularly.
  • Mothers having access to pre, peri and postnatal care.
  • Engagement in gross & fine motor activities.

Not entirely sure whether your child needs early intervention?

Screener for language delay

So, check out the Online Speechie Screener.

Interested in learning how to enrich your child’s environment?

Help your child talk home program

Download the Speechie Parent Playbook here

The Speechie Parent Playbook will assist you to develop your child’s talking at home by providing you with easy & digestible activities & strategies that you can incorporate into your everyday routine and playtime – ALL organised into the 3 communication stages!



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