Can these two be interconnected?
I would definitively say yes!
At about 18 months old, toddlers should be making a few speech and animal sounds, copying words, imitating the back and forth of real conversation, and should be using about 10 words. You can find more information about speech and communication milestones at ASHA- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
When toddlers seem too independent, they may be lacking “joint attention”. Joint attention is the shared focus of two individuals and an object. So, whenever you play with your toddler, and he quickly loses attention and moves away to do his/her own thing, appearing “independent”, your toddler may be experiencing joint attention deficits.
Joint attention is critical in developing speech and communication skills. Before a toddler can imitate sounds, they should be imitating caregivers' gross motor actions, and imitating actions with objects. It is easier for a toddler to imitate gross motor actions than speech. Once joint attention is well established, your toddler will develop the precursor skills needed for the imitation of speech sounds.
ABA Therapy is known to help children with autism, speech delays, and problem behaviors. Please feel free to contact me for your in-home ABA therapy inquiries or in-school services by filling out my contact page.