Late-Talking Children

Sep 16, 2014 by

Thomas Sowell – Anyone who knows what anxiety, and sometimes anguish, parents go through when they have a child who is still not talking at age two, three or even four, can appreciate what a blessing it can be to have someone who can tell them what to do — and what not to do.

That someone is Professor Stephen Camarata of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, whose recently published book, “Late-Talking Children” gives parents information and advice that they are not likely to find anywhere else. And it does so in plain English.

Professor Camarata has been researching, diagnosing and treating children with speech problems for decades. Moreover, he knows from personal experience what it is like to be a parent of a late-talking child, and he himself was three and a half years old before he began to speak. So he has seen this problem from many angles.

A child can be years behind schedule in beginning to speak and yet go on to have a perfectly normal life. Some children with delayed speech may even be noticeably brighter than other children their age. But, for other late-talking children, the delay in beginning to speak can be a symptom of much deeper and long-lasting problems, including mental retardation or autism.

Most parents are in no position to know which of these very different conditions applies to their own child. Nor is it easy to find out, because there are so many people so ready to put labels on late-talking children that can follow these children for years, even when these labels have no solid foundation.

False diagnoses of late-talking children are by no means rare. Even Albert Einstein was thought to be retarded, when he failed to talk at an age when most other toddlers begin to speak. Three renowned nuclear physicists who were involved in the creation of the first atomic bomb had been late-talking children.

Late-talking children can be at any intellectual level, from the lowest to the highest. But it is hard to know what their intellectual level is when they are not saying anything.

In his clinical research at Vanderbilt University, Stephen Camarata has devised some ways of discovering what a late-talking toddler knows and understands. But these methods work only when the child cooperates — and cooperation is not universal among very young children.

When he cannot get enough cooperation from a child to make a reliable diagnosis, Camarata simply tells the parents that he will have to wait until the child becomes more mature, which may be months later or a year or more later. A false diagnosis is worse than no diagnosis.

Late-Talking Children – Thomas Sowell – Page 1.

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