I can’t tell you how many times that I Google searched milestones for my kiddos in the early weeks, months and years.
Speech is something that a lot of parents worry about and for valid reasons. Statistically twins develop their speech at a slower pace than singletons.
But why? I want to explore some of the reasons and signs of delayed speech development in twins and ways to help encourage speech development.
Expected Speech Timeline For Twins
The University of Kansas has done a study regarding speech in twins. The study suggests that majority of twins start talking 1 to 3 months after singletons would.
For reference, singletons typically start talking anywhere from 9 to 14 months of age. You could accurately determine that twins could start talking from 10 to 16 months.
Is Delayed Language Development In Twins “Typical”
Twins and other multiples are more likely to have delayed speech development than singletons. There are a variety of reasons for this, which we will explore more below.
It is important to note that not all twins or multiples will experience delays. They might not have any delays at all, or might be delayed in one area and not the other.
Try not to be fearful of delays, either. Often children that experience delays can catch up to their peers, especially with help!
Reasons Why Twins Are At A Higher Risk For Speech Delays
Premature– Premature births are more common in multiples. Preemies do not have an adequate amount of time to develop the auditory cortex in the womb.
The auditory complex is the part of the brain responsible for understanding sound. This delay in development can cause speech delays.
Birth Complications– Birth complications can cause speech delays if the baby experiences a lack of oxygen for a period of time. Lack of oxygen can cause damage to the brain which presents as delays.
One Twin Talking for the Other– If one twin is talking for the other then that could explain a speech delay. Twins of course can have different personalities, which could result in one twin talking for another.
Tongue Tie– Tongue ties can cause a multitude of issues including speech delays. A tongue tie limits what the tongue can do as far as sounds.
This is because a tongue tie restricts the range of motion the tongue has. Your children can be evaluated for tongue ties by a pediatrician or dentist and then a referral can be made if they detect a tongue tie.
Twin Language- Did you know that twins can have their own language? This language is developed by babbling and having an understanding of what the other is saying. Twins are great at mysteriously knowing what the other wants!
Male Twins- Girls seem to develop a little more quickly than boys anyway, so male twins kind of get a double whammy for development. This does not mean they will or won’t have delays, just that it is statistically more possible.
Signs Of A Possible Speech Delay
It is important to know the signs of a possible speech delay. Here are the things that you should be looking out for:
- No Babbling – No babbling as a baby can be a sign of a speech delay. Infants are made to communicate and engage which is usually babbling. Lacking this milestone is a red flag.
- Lack of Gestures – Gestures are one of the earliest forms of communication for babies. If they aren’t using basic gestures, it may be because they don’t realize that they can communicate.
- Frequent Ear Infections – Frequent ear infections are a major concern because it inhibits the ability of your child to hear what is being said around them, and hear themselves. There can be damage to the ear drum which prevents your child(ren) from hearing well.
- Trouble Playing with Peers – Playing with others may become frustrating if there is lack of communication. Observing interactions with peers is a great way to tell how well they are communicating.
- Difficulty with Directions – Difficulty following directions is an indication that you may be dealing with a speech delay with receptive language.
- Doesn’t Respond to Their Name – Not responding to their own name is an indication that they may not be able to hear well.
- Doesn’t Imitate Sounds – Lack of imitation is another indication that your little one cannot hear well. Little ones imitate gestures and sounds, so this lack could be concerning.
- Tone of Voice – If your little one is too loud or too quiet they may not be able to hear appropriately.
Types Of Speech Delays Most Often Seen In Twins
There are 5 different types of sleech delays that you can see in twins. The wording is often used interchangeably and can cause confusion on your part as a parent because they can seem like the same thing.
Below are the definitions of speech delay, language delay, speech disorder, language disorder, and late language emergence.
A speech delay is an inability to speak at the expected ages. These milestones include:
- Not able to say simple words by 12 months old
- Understand simple commands by 18 months old
- Use 2 word combinations by 24 months old
- Speak in complete sentences by 3 years old
A language delay is an inability to form complete sentences. This means that they may speak clearly, but may only be able to put together two or three words at a time.
A speech disorder refers to the difficulty to form words, sounds, sentences, etc. It can be caused by either oral or hearing problems. Your child may be using words or phrases to express their ideas but are still hard to understand.
A language disorder refers to the issues relating to comprehension of or use of language. Children with language disorders struggle with the form, content, function, or any combination of language.
Late Language Emergence
Late language emergence, or LLE, is a language delay without any other disorder or diagnosed delay. These are a concern because they can evolve into other disorders, such as social communication disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disability, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Related Post: How Does Reading Improve Speech for Your Child?
Ways To Help Your Twins With Speech Development
Before jumping into speech therapy, there is plenty of things that you are more than capable of doing while at home.
These tips and tricks can help any and all kiddos struggling with a speech delay!
Through reading babies and toddlers learn about words, sounds, meanings, how stories flow..all of the good things!
If the story is repetitive and they have heard it a few times, you can pause to see if they will say the next word or phrase.
One on One Time
One on one time is so important, especially when you have twins. This one on one attention, helps you to focus on one child and nurture that relationship.
It is important to create a bond and connection with twins separately from one another.
Use Sign Language
Sometimes communication is frustrating. When little ones are frustrated, it’s hard to get them to open up and talk.
Sign language can be a useful and fun tool to use to encourage speech. Basic sign language can break down the frustration barrier and allow your toddler to start using their words.
When I sign, I always use the word corresponding to the sign.
Music is great for little ones. They love to dance, and the repetition of words is great for developing speech.
Children often memorize the words to their favorite tune and sing them. This can be a fun way to get your toddler talking.
Choices are so important for developing independence and language. Offering a few different options for snacks, clothes, cups, etc. can help break your toddler out of their shell!
Try not to interject when they are forming a response. Wait for your toddlers response, rather than waiting for a gesture and making a decision for them.
Stop Baby Talk
If you are using baby talk, you may consider stopping. Baby talk is usually words that are not real or words that are hard to understand.
Speak clearly using real words. I like to point to my mouth so they can watch how I form the word.
You can ask them to day different things like: “Can you say ‘Mama’?”
When you do this point at your mouth and kind of exaggerate the word when saying it. This helps to show your toddler how to say the word.
When they attempt celebrate! Even if it’s not even close, celebrate big! This big celebration, will encourage them to try again and different words.
Toddlers love big, dramatic reactions. These types of reactions encourage speech because they love the positive attention.
Try things like “BOOOOM” or ” CRASHHHHH” when playing with cars or building towers.
This is one of my biggest tips, talk constantly! Talk when you are driving, at the store, on a nature walk, where ever you are talk.
Talking gives your toddler different words to express themselves and emotions. It is important for your little ones to understand word meaning and how conversations flow.
Ask questions that require a response and let your child respond. If they respond with a gesture, vocalize their gesture.
For example you can say: “Would you like the red cup or blue cup?” When they point to the red cup you can say “Okay, you want the red cup?”
Try to get a response with a yes or no. If they shake their head “yes” you can say “Great, I will use the red cup!”
Keep asking questions, but let them gesture. When they gesture, confirm their response. Eventually, the may start to use words!
When To Seek Speech Therapy For Your Twins
Early speech therapy intervention is important, but when should you seek it for twins.
You should seek therapy when you notice your toddler(s) not hitting speech milestones. Even though twins are more likely to have a speech delay doesn’t mean they have to wait for speech therapy.
The earlier the intervention, the better off your little ones will be. Most children start speech therapy around 18 months of age.
Related Post: Teach Your Toddler to Talk
Frequently Asked Questions About Delayed Speech In Twins
Speech delays can be quite concerning with parent. Of course we want our children not to have delays, but if they do I want to make sure you have the tools to navigate them.
Keep scrolling for popular FAQ’s about delayed speech in twins.
Will my twins outgrow their speech delays?
Yes, they definitely can! The best remedy for a speech delay is early intervention with a speech pathologist.
You can also do quite a few different things (like we talked about above) that will encourage your little one(s) to talk more and grow out of their speech delay.
Is there really a “special” language between twins?
Yes, there actually is! This special language is called an autonomous language.
The autonomous language can happen in babies that are born very close together, but most often twins. As they develop speech in the language they hear others speaking most, their autonomous language will disappear.
When is a speech delay considered serious?
If your toddler is 18-24 months and not talking at all or using mostly gestures to communicate, I would highly recommend seeking help.
I would start with your pediatrician so that they can evaluate your toddler for things like hearing impairments, and then they can refer you out to a speech therapy center.
The bottom line is that speech delays are common in twins and I know that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. There are lots of things that can be done to encourage talking, which is good news.
Remember, there are also professionals that can help you! And, just because your child is experiencing a speech delay doesn’t mean they will be delayed forever.
What are your favorite things that helped with your little ones speech delay? Let me know in the comments below!