Target Word™ - The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children who are Late Talkers

If your child is under the age of 30 months and you’ve noticed that he frequently communicates messages and ideas to you, but does not use as many words as other children his age, the Target Word Program may be able to help.

This program was specifically designed for groups of parents of children under the age of 30 months who are using few words or who, by the age of 24 months, are not using several two-word combinations. These children understand what they are told, have good play and turn-taking skills, and have no trouble learning everyday routines. But when it comes to using words, their vocabulary is limited.

A child is considered a late talker if he or she:

  • has an expressive vocabulary of fewer than 24 words and is between 18 and 20 months; OR
  • has an expressive vocabulary of fewer than 40 words and is between 21 and 24 months; OR
  • has an expressive vocabulary of fewer than 100 words and is between 24 and 30 months; OR
  • has limited word combinations by 24 months; AND
  • has relatively good skills in his or her other areas of development (understanding, play, social, motor and cognitive skills); AND
  • has some risk factors, such as limited use of gestures, limited use of different speech sounds, or a family history of language delay

If you’re the parent of a child who is a late talker, the Target Word Program can show you ways to naturally create opportunities for your child to use words during everyday routines and activities.

You’ll learn:

  • how to respond when your child communicates without using words
  • how to turn everyday activities into opportunities for language-learning
  • how to introduce new words and ideas into playtime and other activities
  • how to join in your child's play and favorite activities in ways that help your child use new words
  • how to set up activities so your child can learn new words

Program Components

The Target Word parent program is led by a Hanen Certified speech-language pathologist (Hanen SLP), and includes:

  • An individual consultation with the Hanen SLP before the program begins
  • Five informative, interactive sessions with a small group of parents
  • Two individual consultation appointments with the Hanen SLP to discuss how to fine-tune the information for their child. Parents are videotaped interacting with their child, and the parent and SLP then review the tape together to see what's working and what else the parent might do to help their child learn even more
  • Support from other parents of children with delayed expressive language

Program Resources

  • Target Word Parent Handbook — a personalized workbook that allows you to relate the program information to your child, plan and record your home activities and track your own and your child's progress
  • It Takes Two to Talk® guidebook — a practical guide for encouraging your child’s language learning in different contexts, like routines, book reading and play time

Benefits of the Target Word Program

Practical strategies you can use in everyday situations

Children hear thousands of words every day. Although late talkers understand what is said to them, it is thought that they have difficulty isolating one word from another, and this makes it hard for them to use individual words. Target Word shows parents how to create opportunities for their child to send a message, and then to highlight specific words during everyday interactions to make it easier for the child to learn to say new words.

The Hanen SLP leading the program will help you carefully select 10 “target” words for your child (i.e. words that your child will be motivated to learn and use, based on your input and the SLP’s assessment) and will show you how to create opportunities for your child to use those words frequently throughout the day.

Examples of strategies you’ll learn in the program:

Let your child lead
Join in the play and other activities, and model the words your child would use.
Expand your child’s message
Add new ideas and words to your
child’s messages.
TARGET what you say
Highlight words and add gestures to make them stand out.
Create language opportunities
Use mini-routines to create opportunities for your child to send language messages.

The Target Word Program offers you opportunities to practice and discuss each strategy with your fellow group members so you’ll be comfortable and confident using them at home.


The chance to connect with other parents

Many parents who attended the Target Word program have told us how helpful it was to meet other parents of children who are late talkers. You’ll connect with parents who have similar concerns and you’ll gain valuable insight by listening to their experiences.

As one participant explained:

“What I loved [about Target Word] was meeting other parents who were going through the same things... The group discussions and story-sharing were very encouraging.”


A research-based program

Like all of Hanen's programs, Target Word was developed by expert speech-language pathologists and is grounded in extensive research in the field of early language intervention. The program draws from research that identifies the most effective strategies for enhancing very young children’s expressive language development.

What parents say about Target Word...

"I am now much more aware of how to respond to my child so he gets opportunities and help in developing his vocabulary. My child now has a great number of words (almost double)”

“My child progressed so much and we, as a family, feel our relationship has grown as we can all communicate now!"

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Target Word Program and would highly recommend it to any parent."

Finding a Target Word Program

Target Word Programs are offered by specially trained Hanen Certified Speech-Language Pathologists. Use the links below to find a Target Word Program or a Target Word-certified SLP in your area.

Learn more about the online program

Find a Hanen SLP

Find a Hanen Program