Listening to your son or daughter’s first words is one of the most precious milestones in your life as a parent. However, this lovely event could cause anxiety. Parents often worry about their baby’s development when their child seems to lag behind peers in terms of speech.
Children develop language at various rates, and it is common for a child to take time with speech. However, some instances need more detailed evaluations and would require structured speech therapy.
What milestones are there for toddlers?
First, let me introduce you to a GREAT free resource. If you are not already aware of it, Capital Health in Edmonton has teamed forces with the Calgary Health Region and created Talk Box.
Here is the link: https://open.alberta.ca/publications/talk-box-a-parent-s-guide-to-creating-language-rich-environments-preschool
You will find developmental milestones, strategies, and activities that you can try with your child, as well as “red flags” or markers that it may be time to seek some help.
You will learn that 2-year-old children should have a vocabulary of 50 words and start to combine 2 or 3 words into mini-sentences. You will learn that they should follow simple directions such as putting away shoes or hanging up their coat. And you will get activity ideas to practise these things and make your child’s language environment more amenable and enriching for speech and language development.
Within Talk Box you will find downloadable .pdf files specifically for your child’s age – under 12 months through to age 5! All the milestones are there at your finger tips for a fast, general “check in” to benchmark where your child is at.
I will also point you to the iOS app “Beginning with Babble”. It has daily tips, tricks, games, and activities that you can engage in with your child. You enter your child’s birthday, and it provides daily tips within the app that are tailored to and appropriate for your child’s age. The activities have instructions and video models and provide you some background on why these activities are valuable.
Is babbling and cooing normal?
Not just normal – necessary.
Cooing and babbling is how babies explore and play with sound. They are fine-tuning their language listening and sound production systems by doing this. For most babies, cooing and babbling should emerge around the 6-month mark and increase in its length and complexity over the next six months, implementing more sounds and more variety. Limited babbling during this time should be a red flag. First and foremost, check your child’s hearing! Babies should learn how to imitate and copy sounds within the first year—when they don’t, that’s another warning sign.
Don’t be concerned if your child does not articulate very many sounds at this point; many sounds like “k, l,” “r,” and “s” emerge later. However, you should be noticing some variety with sounds like /b, p, n, m, t, d/ and maybe some long sounds like f, v, s, or sh (even if they don’t sound “clear).
Why would my child need an intervention?
If you’ve noticed that your child exhibits several red flags or is lagging in milestones, it might be time to have an assessment completed, engage in some parent training, and/or engage in some play-based therapy.
While “late talking” children are not always a cause for concern, we can take steps to ensure we have a language-rich environment that facilitates both speech and language development. It’s better to be on the safe side! There are numerous interactive strategies and activities that can be “built in” to your daily interactions with your child that have been shown to make a difference.
There are many factors such as hearing, social development, personality, environment, and language ability that influence how quickly a child develops language. So, there are a few variables we can assess and also tweak to optimize your child’s development.
Keep the bigger picture in mind – language growth is cumulative and vocabulary, comprehension, expression, speech, reading, writing, and spelling skills are all skills that can be practised and trained, and we want to get the jump on this as we use these skills daily in every interaction we have with other people!
How can I encourage speech and language?
There are many strategies as a starting point within the Talk Box resource; and there are more specific strategies and activities that a Speech – Language Pathologist may recommend for your child. Consider that humans developed language for social purposes; that is the sole reason humans have the capacity for language. So really engaging in an interactive way around social games like peek-a-boo, hide-n-seek, turn taking, and joint attention (e.g., looking at a book together) will really pave the way. Ensure you give your child a chance to talk; be hyper-responsive to ALL communication (including non-verbal gestures, body posture, facial expression etc.), and try to limit your questions. Questions make for unnatural conversation. You don’t want to “test” your child, and that is what questions do! Use comments to talk about what you see, what you like, what you are thinking, to praise, reinforce, acknowledge, and label.
The first years of a child are full of rapid changes and growth, especially in the area of speech and language development. Set up your child for success by carefully following their progress through these milestones. Consult a speech pathologist if there are aspects of your child’s progress where you want more clarification.
Help your child become a happy, confident learner by guiding their development. ensure they are on track for Kindergarten and beyond. Speak2Read provides speech-language pathology programs in Calgary, helping children form the necessary skills for good communication. Book a call today for more details!