Do you ever wonder whether your child’s language abilities are developing normally? Are you concerned about a possible speech delay?
Here are a few things to ask yourself:
Is my baby vocalizing and babbling? Babies should be playing with their voices and experimenting with sounds. Babies from three to six months should be “cooing,” which is vocalizing mostly vowel sounds. Babies begin “babbling” at around six months. Typical babbling sounds are, “mamama,” “baba,” “dada,” “gagaga,” etc. It is said that babies under a year old play with all the possible sounds of every language and that after a year of age, the ability to produce and even to hear sounds that are not used in the native language is gradually lost. (Isn’t that cool?) Around a year of age, most babies are using “jargon,” sentence-like intonations. It may sound as if your child is jabbering away in another language! If a baby doesn’t babble and vocalize, or if he stops vocalizing, this could be a sign of hearing loss.
Does my baby make eye contact? Does he try to imitate sounds or facial expressions? Is he learning turn taking? (He babbles, mom babbles back or says something, he babbles again.) Even passing a toy back and forth is a precursor of conversational skills. Children actually begin to learn these early conversational skills well before they are using actual language.
Does my baby or toddler communicate his needs? Even before babies are using actual language, they should communicate by vocalizing and pointing.
Does my toddler follow simple commands? By one year of age, babies should respond to “no” and their own names, and should give an object on request. By eighteen months, children should be able to point to one to three body parts and follow simple one-step commands.
Does my child have an age-appropriate vocabulary? Babies usually produce their first few words around one year of age. The average vocabulary of an eighteen-month-old is 50 words. By twenty-four months, a child’s expressive vocabulary averages about 200 words. Children vary in their development, but if your child is more than six months behind these norms, there may be cause for concern.
Is my toddler putting words together into sentences? Toddlers typically begin using two-word phrases at about eighteen months. If a child is not doing this by age two, he may be considered delayed in language skills. The typical child is producing three to four-word sentences at twenty-four months.
If you have any concerns about your child’s language development, please consult a speech pathologist. Children develop at different rates, and your child may be completely normal, but it is very important to catch potential problems early, since language disorders can impact socialization and future educational performance. Often, public schools will even provide free services for preschoolers.
Deborah M. Lott is a speech pathologist who has published the Super Star Speech series of books to help parents correct their children’s articulation errors at home.. She blogs about speech and language topics and provides additional information and free speech therapy resources at http://www.superstarspeech.com/