The Concern Surrounding Language Delay

Most parents are concerned when their children don’t reach critical developmental milestones concurrently with their peers. But if there’s one milestone in particular that makes parents nervous when it isn’t reached, it’s learning to speak. Delays in speech can range in severity from not talking at all to finding it difficult to pronounce certain words and being challenged to form sentences.

Most of these parents presume that their child’s language delay or speech disorder will have a long-term impact on their child’s capacity to function normally, socially and academically. But this isn’t always the case, as can be seen by a relatively unknown condition known as Einstein Syndrome.

Einstein Syndrome Defined

Einstein Syndrome is the term used to characterize a child who has a speech delay but is simultaneously gifted in other areas requiring analytical thought. Children with Einstein Syndrome eventually speak with no constraints or indications of their slow start, while at the same time remaining more advanced in other areas.

Einstein Syndrome was named for Albert Einstein, according to many the most brilliant and influential scientist of the 20th Century. Einstein, a certified genius, was also a late talker (according to some biographers). He didn’t speak full sentences until he was 5 years old.  Einstein’s speech delay clearly wasn’t an impediment to his intellectual prowess and awe-inspiring accomplishments.

Thomas Sowell, an American economist, coined the concept of Einstein Syndrome. Sowell observed that, whereas language delay is considered a symptom of autism, there are many children who are plagued with language delay but aren’t autistic. And amongst them are children who later on thrive, becoming very successful and highly respected analytical thinkers.

Characteristics

What are some of the ways to detect whether or not your child may have Einstein Syndrome? Of course, the first criterion is that your child is not meeting age-appropriate speech milestones. But there are more clues.

Sowell, in his 1997 book “Late-Talking Children,” outlines some of the general characteristics that will often be found in those children with Einstein Syndrome:

  • outstanding and precocious analytical or musical abilities

  • outstanding memories

  • strong-willed behavior

  • very selective interests

  • delayed potty training

  • specific ability to read or use numbers or a computer

  • close relatives with analytical or musical careers

  • extreme concentration on whatever task is occupying their time

Diagnosis

If you are concerned that your child is a late-talker, you need to have your child evaluated by either a therapist who delivers therapy face-to-face or one delivers online speech therapy to determine the reason for the speech delay. If the evaluation doesn’t label autism as the cause and you feel that your child is otherwise quite engaged in the world, then it is more than likely that your child fits the criteria of Einstein Syndrome.

That being said, at this point, there is no accepted medical definition of Einstein Syndrome, nor does it appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While your child may indeed have Einstein Syndrome, it is unlikely that he/she will receive a formal diagnosis.

Alternatively, if your child receives a particular diagnosis from the therapist who evaluates and delivers online speech therapy, don’t hesitate to challenge a diagnosis that you feel is incorrect. And sometimes there may be a physical impairment that is impeding your child from talking that is worthy of investigation.

Treatment

Whether your child has Einstein Syndrome or another form of speech delay, face-to-face or online speech therapy is the recipe to correct your child’s condition. Besides the regular therapy sessions with a licensed clinician, there are exercises you can do at home to practice with your child to improve speech.

The therapy that will be suggested for your child will be customized per the results of the evaluation. And sometimes the speaking delay is due to a receptive/ language disorder, where the problem is not the speaking itself but rather understanding what’s being said and responding appropriately.

The Bottom Line

Although Sowell’s discovery goes a long way in explaining the phenomenon known as Einstein Syndrome, there hasn’t been enough research for it to be conclusive. At the same time, it is vital for face-to-face therapists and those who deliver online speech therapy to be aware of its existence. It not only can make the diagnosis more accurate but is a source of hope for you and your child that is reinforced by some empirical data.

Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis

The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education, including online speech therapy, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. Our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth to ensure that our students remain engaged and supported. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy.