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Language development in twins

Twin Talk: Speech and Language Development in Twins

Twins can be double the fun, double the trouble, or double the talk! Multiples can be an exciting challenge for parents who are working to give each child his or her own individual time. As difficult as that may be, twins also have a communicative partner from birth! Some parents report on “twin language,” or babbling between two babies, which seems like their own language. This babbling can be great for language development as the babies tend to mimic each other’s intonational patterns (or rise and fall of their voices). This can lead to longer “conversations” between babies, as well as bond the two babies as they are primarily communicating with each other.

Conversely, some research has shown that twin language may be an early phonologicalTwin Talk: Language Development in Twins disorder (or sound substitutions/deletions/insertions). Researchers have found that as sounds are developing inappropriately, this twin talk perpetuates these errors, as babies are “understood” by their siblings, so there is no real need to correct misarticulations.

Twins also tend to have an increased likelihood of later language emergence, primarily due to the higher percentage of premature babies. Both monozygotic and dizygotic twins may develop language behind their singleton peers, so it is important for parents to keep in mind their children’s adjusted age (should they be premature).

Red Flags for Speech Development in Twins:

  • Both babies missing milestones: keeping track of appropriate language development, taking into account the babies’ adjusted age, can help parents monitor their twins’ development.
  • One baby is developing more quickly: paying attention to each individuals’ progress when developing speech and language is so important. If parents notice that one child is significantly behind their other, intervention may be warranted.
  • Singleton red flags: Overall, the red flags for multiples are the same as for singletons, taking into account adjusted age, as necessary. Babies should acquire their first words around 1 year, and should be consistently learning new words until they reach “word spurt,” or rapid language growth around 18 months.

It is also important to note that monozygotic twins tend to have higher rates for speech and language disorders that dizygotic twins, so it is important that parents monitor speech, language and overall development and growth. As with all children, red flags and milestones are variable, and it is important to remember that some babies progress faster or slower than others. Should parents have concerns regarding speech-language development, it is important to check in with pediatricians or licensed speech-language pathologists!


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References:
Lewis, B.A., & Thompson, L.A. (1992). A study of developmental speech and language disorders in twins. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research. 35(5), 1086-1094.

Rice, M.L., Zubrick, S.R., Taylor, C.L., Gayan, K., & Contempo, D.E. (2014). Late language emergence in 24-month old twins: Heritable and increased risk for late language emergence in twins. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 57(3), 917-928.

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