Parent Holding Child


The 2 Most Common Myths of Childhood Speech Development


“My son didn’t start talking until he was 4, and now he talks all the time!”

“You should only speak to your daughter in English; learning two languages is confusing.”

“Whatever it is, they will grow out of it.”

Have you ever heard any of this unsolicited advice from a well-meaning friend or family member about your child? If you have, you aren’t alone! While the person may only be offering advice or encouragement from a place of love, it still can feel unhelpful — or even make it harder to know what the right decision is about childhood speech development.

What is the right decision? Read on for advice from a speech-language pathologist about two common myths about speech therapy for kids.

Myth 1: You don’t need to go to speech therapy because all kids start talking eventually.


Knowing when to seek help for your child can be a tricky decision. There is so much conflicting information out there about developmental milestones. One thing that makes it especially tricky is that kids do meet milestones at different times.  

For example, here are the American Academy of Pediatrics' developmental milestones for social and language development:

12 months

  • Calls parents by name (“mama” or “dada”).
  • Understands “no.”
  • Waves bye-bye.
  • Plays social games like pat-a-cake.
  • Will use first words around 12 months of age.

18 months

  • Uses more words beyond “mama” and “dada.”
  • Follows simple directions, such as, “Get your shoes.”
  • Point to show something interesting.
  • Looks at pages of a book with you.

24 months

  • Uses 50-100 words.
  • Begins to put two words together, such as, “More milk,” or “No shoes.”
  • Notices when someone is sad or upset (i.e. frowns if you are sad).

36 months

  • Notices other children and joins them in play.
  • Asks and answers what, where, and who questions.
  • Is 75% intelligible to non-familiar listeners.

If your child is not meeting these developmental milestones, you should consider talking to your pediatrician or a speech therapist about whether you should initiate speech therapy.

Remember, if a child is not meeting developmental milestone it does not always indicate something is wrong; rather, it is giving good information about where a child may benefit from additional support. Some kids may need more time to meet these speech and language milestones, while others may be ready to start treatment. Many different factors contribute to making this decision and a speech therapist can work with you to help determine what is right for your child.

Current research suggests that as many as 70-80% of late talkers will catch up to their peers by the time they enter school. However, a big caveat is that this research applies only for children who are delayed in their speaking and not in their comprehension as well. To make it more complicated, it is very hard to predict which kids will be in the 70-80% and which kids will be a part of the 20-30% that need additional support. In addition, late talkers, who do appear to catch up by school age, are still at greater risk of challenges in literacy, complex language development and grammar.

Research shows that starting early intervention speech therapy leads to better, positive outcomes. If a speech therapist does recommend intervention for your child, you can feel confident that you are doing everything you can to support your their language needs. If a speech therapist determines your child does not need speech therapy, you will still have an opportunity to have your questions answered by an expert, and to learn strategies that may help your child continue their language development.

Myth 2: Learning two languages will negatively impact a child’s overall language development.


I often have been asked by parents if they should stop speaking their primary language to their child in favor of English. The short answer is no. All recent research suggests that learning two languages does not negatively impact a child’s language development in either language.

In fact, I recommend that parents continue using their home language with their child for a multitude of reasons, including:

  • It is important for parents and caregivers to communicate with their children in the language they know best. -
  • A good language model gives children the support and skills they need to acquire and learn additional languages.
  • If parents are not as comfortable speaking English, it can impact their ability to engage and socially interact with their child.
  • It could impact their relationship with family, friends and caregivers who only speak the family’s primary language rather than English.

What about if a child is learning two languages and has a language delay? Should parents pick one language?

Again, the answer is no. Research shows that children with language impairment or delay do not have any additional challenges compared to peers who speak one language with similar challenges.

SLPs also strongly believe in the benefit to children in being able to engage in their family culture, and communicate with caregivers and family members in the primary language of their family unit. Speech therapy, for children with two languages, should prioritize the child’s primary language and supporting skills in that language. 

Rebecca Wright is a speech-language pathologist and certified brain injury specialist in the Outpatient Pediatrics department of Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. Rebecca graduated from the University of Oklahoma and has been a speech pathologist working with the pediatric population for 10 years. Her clinical interests include childhood language, pediatric TBI, dysphagia and cognitive communication.

Let's get connected.

Request an appointment