Shy toddlers understand more than you think

New study shows delayed speech doesn't mean delayed understanding

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Have a quiet toddler? Worried that she doesn’t say as many words as her friends? Don’t immediately worry, as shy toddlers who are slow to start using words might understand more speech than you think.

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A new study shows that delayed speech does not mean that the children don’t understand what’s being said.

The study by the University of Colorado Boulder found that shy toddlers understand more than they indicate through talking and were delayed in speaking but not in understanding.

“Behaviourally inhibited children who may not be speaking much shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Soo Rhee, an author of the study and an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. “Parents and teachers should be aware that they may need to be encouraged more in their expressive language development.”

Patterns of the behaviour of 408 sets of twins at 14, 20 and 24 months were studied.

“It’s good news that the children are not delayed in language acquisition,” Rhee said. “But not being willing to speak may still have consequences.”

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