A baby’s first sounds are usually loud and clear and they express very effectively (although nonverbally) what they want us to know – “I’m hungry. I need to be changed. I’m afraid. I’m tired. I need to be held.” But as the weeks and months go by, babies learn to express themselves in new ways that are all a part of the development of language. Every babble, coo or first word, like mama and dada, are milestones in their journey toward speech.
While each child learns to speak at his or her own pace, some general milestones can serve as a guide to normal speech and language development – and help parents, doctors and other health professionals determine when a child might need extra help.
According to the Mayo Clinic, by the end of 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months, your baby normally will master certain tasks:
4 Smile when you appear 4 Make “cooing” sounds 4 Quiet or smile when spoken to 4 Seem to recognize your voice 4 Cry differently for different needs
Being aware of what to expect at each age in terms of language development can help parents know whether their child is progressing normally or if they might need a speech and language evaluation. Well-Being turned to Susannah Silvia, Speech Language Pathologist and Clinical Director for Beyond Therapy for Kids for some insights into what to be alert to.
If you are worried that your child may be developing his or her language skills more slowly than normal, Ms. Silvia points us to a few red flags to look for by the 18-month range:
“Plato says it best, ‘You can discover more about a person in one hour of play than a year in conversation.’ I always suggest that caregivers observe and video how their child plays, learns, and acts during their natural daily routines. This will provide important clues about his or her development,” notes Silvia.
The CDC recommends that you talk with your child’s primary care physician and request a speech and language evaluation order if your child is experiencing any of these difficulties. A mother tends to have strong instincts about their child’s needs so it’s important to follow those instincts and be an advocate for your child. Parents need to speak up and not accept the “wait and see” approach. Know the signs. Act early.
One way parents can help their babies develop speech and language skills is by talking to them – about everything! Babies may not know exactly what you are saying, but they know that you are focusing on them and they will watch and listen to what you do. Sing songs and read together. Teach your child to imitate actions, such as clapping, and to say animal sounds. Tell them the words for familiar items, i.e., ball, chair, cup, etc. Show your child that you are pleased when he or she speaks.
In our upcoming issue we will continue to address this topic by providing specific activities and strategies for encouraging your child’s speech and language development during natural daily routines around the home, such as bath time, dressing, mealtime, story time and outside play.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wonderful website for parents and providers. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html to follow your child’s developmental milestones including speech and language.
Susannah Silvia, MCD CCC SLP, Speech Language Pathologist, and Clinical Director at Beyond Therapy for Kids in Ridgeland, received her BA in communication disorders from Louisiana State University and her Master’s in Communication Disorders from LSU Health Science Center. She has over 10 years of pediatric experience in a variety of communication disorders, and was one of Beyond Therapy’s first speech pathologists to treat babies in the community through MS Early Intervention Program, First Steps.