Identifying Speech Delays in Twins, Triplets and Other Multiples
Numerous studies have established that twins, triplets and other sets of multiples have a higher likelihood of speech delays. (It’s also more common in identical twins and multiples than in fraternal.)
Speech and language delays are characterized as a child having speech or language skills that are below their age and gender expectations. Typically, this means they have shorter utterance lengths, fewer words and less overall attempts to talk/communicate. On the whole, language development among twins has been found to be about 1.7 months behind single babies at 20-months-old and 3.1 months behind at 3 years of age. There’s even a name for this phenomenon: The “twinning effect.”
No one knows exactly why it happens, but our Akron speech therapists know numerous theories have been floated and studied, including:
- Prematurity/birth complications. Both of these can increase the risk of speech delays.
- Divided caregiver attention. Parents are less able to give attention to each child because it’s divided by two babies/toddlers at once (leading to the children hearing less words, having one-on-one interaction, fewer stories, etc.).
- Genetics. Higher likelihood of inherited causes of speech delays.
- “Twin talk.” These are invented words, gestures, simple syntax that twins and multiples use to talk to each other. Sometimes, they are SO effective at communicating with each other without words that their language and speech development may be delayed.
- Personality differences. If one twin is more outgoing and the other more shy, the shy twin may develop speech and language skills at a slower rate.
- One twin/multiple is the “spokesperson.” We see this a lot too with children who have older siblings who “speak” for them. But this can be detrimental to the speech and language development of the other/younger children because they aren’t motivated to verbalize their own needs or feelings.
Addressing Speech Delays Among Multiples
The first step to addressing speech delays among twins and multiples is to recognize it.
Although some sets of twins and multiples with speech delays do catch up to their peers without speech therapy, there is a danger in making that presumption. Without early intervention (prior to age 5), it’s possible they will only continue to get farther behind. That can have long-term implications not just for cognitive development, but social and academic development as well.
Many parents find it difficult to determine if their child’s language skills are typically developing and whether they might need some additional help. But parents of multiples may want to pay especially close attention to this because of their children being at higher risk for speech delays.
If you are concerned about possible language and speech delays among your twins or other set of multiples, we recommend an evaluation with our Akron speech therapists to determine if intervention is needed. If so, our speech-language pathologists will develop therapy goals and a plan of care specifically tailored to your child.
Promoting Speech-Language Development in Twins, Multiples
Whether your child needs speech therapy or not, there are many ways you can help promote speech-language development of your multiples at home.
- Carving out opportunities for individual, face-to-face interactions as much as possible. Create special time with each individual child – whether that is running errands or bath time or reading bedtime stories.
- Encouraging each child’s attempts to communicate individually. Respond to babies’ facial expressions. Maintain eye contact with each child. Try to respond individually – with questions, directions and feedback.
- Being a narrator. Whatever it is you’re doing, use simple words, phrases and sentences to talk about what is going on as it’s happening.
- Taking turns talking. Encourage your other child(ren) to listen when the other is talking.
- Reading simple stories together. Don’t pick books that are too complicated. Slow down to point and label characters, objects or actions. Alternatively direct comments or questions to each child.
- Encouraging your kids to copy you. Do this while singing simple songs or playing games or even just blowing a kiss.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Identifying Speech Delays in Multiples, May 21, 2020 By Susan Chafin, Very Well Family
More Blog Entries:
Speech Therapy Tips to Make the Most of Reading With Your Child, May 22, 2020, Akron Speech Therapy Blog