Defining “Late Talkers”: A systematized review of the literature

Abbott Justine (Presenter), Suzanne Hopf (Presenter)

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The term ‘late talker’ is a common pseudonym used in the community and professional circles to describe a young child whose verbal output has not kept pace with their peers. Late talking is a risk factor for potential long-term communication difficulties. Yet, there does not appear to be any consistency in the use of this term across multiple users or even within the speech-language pathology profession.

Consequently, this reviewed asked “How is the term ‘late talker’ defined in speech pathology research examining children with delayed expressive language?”

A comprehensive and systematic search of six databases up until April 2021 was augmented with forward and reverse citation searching. After removal of search duplicates and application of inclusion/exclusion criteria 31 records underwent data extraction and thematic analysis.

27 records (87.10%) included a definition of ‘late talker’ in the Introduction. The remaining four records defined ‘late talker’ participant groups via formal assessment as described in the Method. Most definitions focussed on expressive language delay in an otherwise typically developing child. 16 records (51.61%) used a cut-off age, or a range of ages, when describing a late talker. 11 records (35.48%) did not define age at all. Of the 16 records the minimum and maximum ages for a late talker were 16 and 41 months respectively.

Current research suggests significant variability in the use of the term ‘late talker’ in the speech pathology profession. Future research should seek to create diagnostic consensus in the use of this term given its widespread use in the community.


ConferenceSpeech Pathology Australia National Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleBeyond borders
OtherIf nothing else, recent events have demonstrated the ingenuity and resolve required to provide quality speech pathology services. Specifically, challenging and changed times has reminded us to stretch and reach beyond our perceived borders to achieve excellence with our practice, research, information dissemination and client and family engagement. It has also reaffirmed that speech pathologists’ reach and impact is far and wide. Thus, we invite speech pathologists to join us in Melbourne in 2022 to share and discuss how we have gone Beyond Borders with regards to clientele, research, information dissemination.

As always, the program will include keynote speakers, leaders at the forefront of Speech Pathology: Professor Gail Gillon, Dr Joanne (Jo) Watson and our Elizabeth Usher Memorial Award Recipient, Professor Miranda Rose.

We anticipate a great attendance as we return to our in-person conference, providing our members the much-needed opportunity to network with leaders, make new contacts and build those important relationships which we have all missed.
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