Internationally adopted children are always at risk for language delays and disorders. These children are taken from their first language and placed into an entirely new language. Oftentimes, this transition leaves the children in a "language lurch," the period of time when their first language skills have disapeared and their new language skills have yet to fully form. Moreover, because of deprivation in orphanages, some internationally adopted children have already experienced initial delays in the development of their first language, making any attempt to learn a second language that much more difficult.
How common are language delays and disorders: There have been several studies on the preponderance of language delays in adopted children. One study that followed children adopted from Russia aged 6-9 found that 11.4% of the children had a learning disability or speech language impairment (Glennen & Bright, 2005). Overall, the children’s structural and meaning-based areas of language were strong, but the children’s pragmatic use of language (i.e., context, social relations, non-verbal communication) was relatively weak (Glennen & Bright, 2005). In another study of adopted girls from China, researchers found wide variation in the language development of the girls (Pollack, 2005). Some children performed above or at average, while others showed delays (Pollack, 2005). More research is needed to truly understand the frequency of speech delays in adopted children.
How to tell if your child is experiencing delays: It is quite common for adopted children to experience minor delays in speech, so don’t panic if you’re child isn’t hitting the same language milestones as non-internationally adopted children. Doctors have developed charts to compare language acquisition in internationally adopted children. For a copy of some of these charts, along with brief explanations, click here.
What to do if your child is experiencing delays: Go see your child’s physician. Most physicians advocate intervention as early as possible.
- "The Late Talker: What to do if Your Child isn’t Talking Yet" by Marilyn Agin, MD, Lisa Geng, & Malcom J. Nicholl
- "Language Development in Internationally Adopted Children" by Dr. B. Gindis