Late talker

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Late talker is a term used for exceptionally bright people who experience a delay in the development of speech.[1] Commonalities include usually being boys, delayed speech development, highly educated parents, musically gifted families, puzzle-solving abilities, and lagging social development.[2] Many high-achieving late talkers were notoriously strong willed and noncompliant as children.[3]

Late talkers can often be misdiagnosed early on as having severe ("low-functioning" or nonverbal) autism spectrum disorder (a category known simply as "autism", prior to the DSM-5), and careful professional evaluation is necessary for differential diagnosis, according to Darold Treffert and other experts.[4][5] One major difference between late talkers and low-functioning autistic children is that for late talkers, communication skills automatically reach a normal level and the child requires no further special treatment with regards to speech.[6][7] Outlook for late talkers with or without intervention is generally favorable.[8] However, late language emergence can also be an early or secondary sign of an autism spectrum disorder, or other developmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disability, learning disability, social communication disorder, or specific language impairment.[3][9][10]

Einstein syndrome, a term coined by the economist Thomas Sowell, is also sometimes used to describe late talkers. The term is named after Albert Einstein (often said to have been a late talker, though with questionable evidence[11]), whom Sowell used as the primary example of a late talker in his work.[12] Sowell also included Edward Teller,[12] the mathematicians Srinivasa Ramanujan,[12] Julia Robinson,[13] physicist Richard Feynman,[12][13] and the pianists Clara Schumann and Arthur Rubinstein to be in the late talkers group.[12] As a toddler, the scientist John Clive Ward showed similar behavioral traits to those described by Sowell,[14] according to a brief sketch of his biography.

Sowell claimed late talkers are often inaccurately categorized as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and that a small subset of late talkers are highly intelligent children with common characteristics concentrated in music, memory, math or the sciences.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James, Ioan (15 November 2008). "Autism in mathematicians". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 25 (4): 62–65. doi:10.1007/BF02984863.
  2. ^ a b Sowell, Thomas (2001). The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late. Basic Books. pp. 89–150. ISBN 0-465-08140-1.
  3. ^ a b "Five Minutes with Stephen Camarata". The MIT Press. The MIT Press. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  4. ^ Treffert, Darold. "Outgrowing Autism? A Closer Look at Children Who Read Early or Speak Late". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  5. ^ Treffert, Darold. "Oops! When "Autism" Isn't Autistic Disorder: Hyperlexia and Einstein Syndrome". Scientific American. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  6. ^ Camarata, Stephen M. (2014). Late-talking children : a symptom or a stage?. ISBN 9780262027793.
  7. ^ Treffert, DA (March 2014). "Savant syndrome: realities, myths and misconceptions". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 44 (3): 564–71. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1906-8. PMID 23918440.
  8. ^ Rapin, Isabelle (2002). "Book Review: Diagnostic Dilemmas in Developmental Disabilities: Fuzzy Margins at the Edges of Normality. An Essay Prompted by Thomas Sowell's New Book: The Einstein Syndrome". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 32 (1): 49–57. doi:10.1023/A:1017956224167.
  9. ^ "Late Language Emergence: Overview". American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  10. ^ Sanchack, KE; Thomas, CA (December 2016). "Autism Spectrum Disorder: Primary Care Principles". American Family Physician. 94 (12): 972–79. PMID 28075089.
  11. ^ "The Legend of the Dull-Witted Child Who Grew Up to Be a Genius", The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  12. ^ a b c d e Thomas Sowell, Ten Years Later. Capitalism Magazine, 24th 05 2003.
  13. ^ a b Thomas Sowell (2008), Late-Talking Children, Basic Books, ISBN 9780786723652. 192 pages.
  14. ^ Close, Frank (2011). "Ch. 6, The Identity of John Ward". The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199593507.