You may be asking yourself… “does my late-talking child really have something in common with Albert Einstein?”
If you find yourself concerned that your child hasn’t begun to speak in full words yet, don’t worry. Given the charts, graphs, and endless percentiles at the pediatrician’s office, the slightest speed bump can cause unwanted anxiety.
Children begin to talk at a variety of ages — and as many as 15% of all children are “late talkers”. Early babbling may be a 1 year old speech milestone, but all kids developing language skills differently.
If your child isn’t speaking, even at the age of three, it does not automatically mean they have Autism spectrum disorder. Late talking is just one symptom, many of which are required for a child to receive a formal diagnosis for Autism.
Late talking can be a symptom of serious developmental problems, but for many children, it is just a stage they will outgrow over time.
If your child has normal, if not gifted, behavior in other areas of development that do not include speech, such as mathematics, analytical thinking, or musical abilities, they may fall into a category known as “Einstein Syndrome”.
How do I know if my child has Einstein syndrome? What can I do to help them? You’ll find the answers to these questions, and much more, in this post.
What is Einstein Syndrome?
“Einstein syndrome” is observed in children who experience delayed speech or language capabilities, while simultaneously demonstrating gifted abilities in other areas of development.
Einstein syndrome is more common in boys, and while their speech language development may be delayed, they’re often gifted in other areas. In one way to think about it, their brain is busy developing other areas (sound, memory, body language, touch, etc.) and hasn’t moved on to articulating words just yet.
While they may not be verbally speaking a language, they usually find an alternative way of communicating with you, whether through a musical instrument, mathematics, or science. Patience is critical when understanding a child who has Einstein Syndrome — once you slow down, you can begin to see the world through a different lens, one that is uniquely their own.
Why is it called Einstein syndrome? Children with high intelligence may surpass childhood development milestones over time, becoming sharp, capable “little professors”. What might begin with worrying about your gifted child with speech delay may improve over time as late talking dissipates, as was the case with the brilliant Albert Einstein.
When it comes to clinical evaluation, there hasn’t yet been significant scientific research to devise a set of parameters for an expert to diagnose your child with Einstein syndrome. The condition does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), so you shouldn’t expect your doctor to definitively say that your child has Einstein Syndrome.
According to experts, Einstein syndrome is often misdiagnosed as Autism spectrum disorder. Autism has been on the rise in recent decades, so healthcare professionals may gravitate toward this diagnosis. If your child has received an Autism diagnosis and you’re not entirely convinced, consider getting a second or third opinion. If you have your doubts, ask teachers, friends, or other trusted medical professionals for an expert referral in early childhood development. At the end of the day, you know your child best.
Who coined the term “Einstein Syndrome”?
American Economist Evan Thomas Sowell initially used the term “Einstein syndrome” in his book, Late-Talking Children, first published in 1997. He went on to write The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late with Dr. Stephen Camarata in 2002. Sowell is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University.
“Einstein syndrome” was further developed by Stephen Camarata, Ph.D, CCC-SLP. Dr. Camarata earned a PhD in Audiology and Speech Sciences from Purdue University and has performed academic research focused on the treatment of speech and language disorders in children, including autism, Down Syndrome, phonological disorder, and language disorder.
Dr. Camarata is currently a Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences and an Associate Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. He is highly regarded as an expert in the field of speech-language pathology, having published Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? in 2014.
Sowell is careful to differentiate that not all late-talking children are in the Einstein syndrome category. Dr. Camarata adds “although all autistic children are late talkers, not all late-talking children are autistic”.
While the term “Einstein Syndrome” may be criticized as overly dramatic or giving parents unrealistic expectations of the genius promise of their child, the research demonstrates there is a subset of children that will outgrow late talking and be exceptionally gifted.
Einstein syndrome vs apraxia: what are the differences?
Apraxia is a motor speech disorder, occurring when your child knows what they’re trying to say, but their jaw, tongue, and lips aren’t properly communicating with their brain to create sounds.
Apraxia is a formal clinical diagnosis, while Einstein syndrome is not something your doctor will definitively say your child has
While apraxia may be caused by brain injuries, infections, genetic disorders, or other medical conditions, there are many cases in which a doctor cannot pinpoint exactly why a child has apraxia. Similarly, Einstein syndrome may have some genetic predispositions, but no real answers.
One common thread between Apraxia and Einstein syndrome is that their symptoms may overlap with Autism spectrum disorder, and can produce a misdiagnosis of Autism.
What should I do if I think my child has Einstein syndrome or another language disorder?
Having your child’s hearing and early child development evaluated by your pediatrician. This is the first critical step to formally evaluating your child’s speech delay.
For your own education, you may wish to pick up a copy of the books mentioned here. They offer a number of case studies with stories for you to learn or understand how they may align with your child. Many reviewers recognize newfound confidence after reading — a renewed sense of hope and empowerment to advocate for their child’s best interests.
In Sowell’s book, he discusses intervention, including speech therapy. He took his own son John, who was a late talker, to see a speech therapist. Dr. Camarata had the same experience with a late-talking son.
A speech-language pathologist is an expert who received specific training to work with your child, addressing your early development concerns in a structured way. At Great Speech, our therapists will devise a treatment plan and provide virtual instruction, exercises, techniques, and more, all to ensure your child makes tremendous progress toward the goals you’ve identified.
Contact us today for an introductory phone call to begin your Great Speech journey!