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Late-talking toddlers do fine later in life

Melbourne: Anxious parents of toddlers who start talking late can now heave a sigh of relief! A new study claims your kids are not at risk of having behavioural and emotional problems as they grow up.

Researchers at Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Australia have found late-talking children are no more likely to face behavioural and emotional problems when they grow up than toddlers who`ve normal language development.

The study is the first of its kind to track language delay from two years of age through to late adolescence, say the Australian researchers whose findings have been published in the latest edition of the `Pediatrics` journal.

Lead researcher Prof Andrew Whitehouse said that while late-talkers have increased levels of behavioural and emotional problems at two years of age, these problems tend not to continue.

He said, "Having a child who is not talking as much as other children can be very distressing for parents. Our findings suggest that parents should not be overly concerned that their late-talking toddler will have language and psychological difficulties later in childhood.”

"We suggest that the behavioural and emotional problems identified at two years are due to the psychosocial difficulties of not being able to communicate. But when late- talking children `catch-up` to normal language milestones, the behavioural and emotional problems are no longer apparent,” he added.

In fact, the study examined 1387 children, with 1245 children achieving "normal" language by two years of age and 142 classed as late-talkers (9.9 percent). The analysis was drawn from a parent-completed Language Development Survey at two years of age and the Child Behaviour Checklist completed at 2, 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17 years of age.

Dr Whitehouse said the results offer reassurance to parents of late-talkers that their language delay is not in itself a risk factor for later behavioural and emotional problems.

"There is good evidence that most late-talking children will `catch-up` to the language skills of other children. The best thing that parents can do is provide a rich language-learning environment for their children,” he said.

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