Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Myths about Spoken Language Problems

​​Karla K. McGregor, Ph.D.
Boys Town National Research Hospital

Incorrect reasons to ignore spoken language problems

Myths, misunderstandings, and half-truths about spoken language problems make it difficult for people who struggle get the help they need. Let's set the record straight!

MYTH: Boys are always late to talk.

TRUTH: Boys might develop later than girls might, but don't ignore a boy developing later than other boys. 

As a group, boys do tend to reach language milestones later than girls do. But boys with DLD show weaker language skills compared to OTHER BOYS. DLD affects both boys and girls. In fact, boys are about 30% more likely than girls to have DLD.

MYTH: The youngest child can never get a word in. Older siblings are always talking for her.

TRUTH: The youngest child in the family might have different strengths and weaknesses than older children in the family but when the youngest child is struggling with language learning, there is reason for concern. 

Although first-born children may show an early advantage in learning words and grammar, later born children are quicker to learn conversational skills. Birth order predicts differences in language development but not problems in language development.

MYTH: The child is just shy, lazy, or naughty.

TRUTH: Children with DLD might seem shy or lazy because they are having difficulty communicating. 

Because it is difficult for them to communicate, children with DLD may withdraw. Adults might mistake withdrawal as shyness. Other children with DLD may get frustrated about their communication failures, leading them to act-out. Adults may view acting-out as stubbornness, laziness, or naughtiness. Another factor that contributes to this myth is that children with DLD often do not fully understand what they hear. What looks like refusing to follow directions is really about misunderstanding those directions.

MYTH: It's too early to worry.

TRUTH: It is never too early to check your child's developmental status. 

Because early language development is highly variable, most speech-language pathologists would not diagnose DLD until a child is 3 or 4 years old. But that does not mean that parents should wait until the child is 3 or 4 to seek help. Early problems with communication, even in babies, could be a sign of other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Hearing Impairment. Even in the absence of these conditions, speech language pathologists can help parents to provide quality, supportive language stimulation to their late talker and this can limit frustrating communication breakdowns and promote faster language development. Because the brain develops extremely quickly during the first three years of life, it is important to get help early.

MYTH: It's too late to worry.

TRUTH: It is never too late to help a person with DLD. 

Development of the brain does not stop at age 3; it continues throughout the life span. Early on, a child with DLD might make great progress in response to language therapy, so much so that she does not seem to need the therapy any longer. But, because development continues and the tasks that we demand of children get increasingly harder, that same child might falter during middle childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood. It is never too late to help a person with DLD to improve his language abilities and to adopt coping strategies. ​

Return to Resource List​