Appendix F - Predictors of Continued Language Delay

Table III-7: Predictors Of Continued Language Delay In Children With Language Delays At 18-36 Months

<(from New York State Department of Health Early Intervention Program – Clinical Practice Guideline on the Assessment and Intervention with Young Children with Communication Disorders)

This table lists factors that predict which children found to have language delay at 18-36 months will continue to have language delay in the future. The more of these predictors a child exhibits, the more serious the concern that the child will continue to have language problems and the greater the need for speech language therapy. Some of the specific predictors may not apply to children 18-24 months if typically developing children would not be expected to exhibit the communicative behaviors.


Language Production

  • Particularly small vocabulary for age
  • Less diverse vocabulary particularly in regard to verbs
  • Preponderance of general all-purpose verbs (such as "do," "make," "want," "go")
  • More transitive and fewer intransitive verbs (such as "give ball")

Language Comprehension

  • Presence of 6-month comprehension delay
  • Large comprehension-production gap with comprehension deficit


  • Few prelinguistic vocalizations
  • Limited number of consonants
  • Limited variety in babbling structure
  • Fewer than 50% consonants correct (substitution of glottal consonants and back sounds for front)
  • Restricted syllable structure
  • Vowel errors


  • Few spontaneous imitations
  • Reliance on direct model and prompting in imitation tasks of emerging language forms



  • Primarily manipulating and grouping
  • Little combinatorial and/or symbolic play


  • Few communicative gestures, symbolic sequences, or supplementary gestures

Social Skills

  • Behavioral problems
  • Few conversational initiations; interactions with adults more than peers
  • Difficulty gaining access to activities

Health and Family History

  • Recurrent otitis media
  • Family history of persistent problems in language learning

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