As a parent, you want the best for your child. You want them to be successful in life. You want them to have opportunities that they may not otherwise have had. And you want them to enjoy their childhood. Your child is constantly undergoing social, emotional, and academic development, though many people are unaware of the expected milestones. The “wait and see” approach has proven to be detrimental to child development while early intervention for any developmental concerns or delays has proven to be monumental in assisting with gains.
The good news is that there are several things you can do to help your children succeed. It starts by being aware of the developmental stages that occur during childhood, in particular, speech development.
Read further to find out more.
How does speech and language develop?
The first 3 years of childhood are crucial to speech and language development. Children are constantly observing their environment and working to increase their participation in the world around them. From an infant who communicates mainly through crying and pleasure sounds to a 3 year old who can follow directions and produce short phrases, there are several steps of speech and language development that must be achieved to make such huge progress in such a short time.
The brain is developing and maturing at a rapid rate. Speech and language development is the foundation for so many other important aspects of development such as social, cognitive, and literacy development.
What causes speech and language delays?
A variety of factors may contribute to your child’s speech and language development. Children that are born prematurely are at a higher risk for developmental delays. Hearing loss, frequent ear infections, or a build up of fluid in the ears make it difficult for your child to learn from sounds and words happening around them. Environmental deprivation or lack of appropriate stimulation limits the exposure a child has to information that is important to speech and language development. In addition, several disorders are associated with speech and language delays such as autism, neurological issues, and genetic disorders.
Exposure to similar age peers impacts speech and language development as well. Having siblings or peers around often motivates a child to want to communicate. However, when a child is the youngest of multiple kids who speak on his/her behalf, the child may be less motivated to communicate as they can easily get away with siblings doing everything for them. Having another sibling in the home with a speech or language disorder may result in other children in the home having a speech or language issue given that an atypical model is frequently present.
What are the signs of a speech or language delay?
There are several signs to look out for. Some key concerns during development include: not producing or responding to sounds, lack of gestures, pointing, or waving, difficulty imitating simple sounds, difficulty understanding simple commands, lack of spontaneous speech, difficulty expressing wants and needs, and an unusual tone of voice. It is important to note that some of these issues may be appropriate depending on how old your child is. For example, a typically developing baby will produce cooing sounds between 0-6 months, string sounds together in a babble between 6-12 months, and produce a first word around the first birthday. If you baby is rather quiet, lacks responses to environmental sounds, or demonstrates difficulty engaging with others, developmental concerns or delays may exist.
As a parent, what can you do?
First, it is very important to be tuned into your child’s development. The moment you feel concerned or you notice that your child has not hit a milestone as expected, seek professional help right away. Regarding speech and language concerns or delays, a speech language pathologist will be able to complete a thorough evaluation of your child to determine if intervention is needed or if your child will acquire the skills without intervention. Do not delay! The earlier you intervene, the better off your child will be!
It may be helpful to keep a log of the milestones your child has achieved and at what age each milestone was hit. This log will allow you to determine if a concern or delay may be present and will also be very helpful information for the speech language pathologist during the evaluation.
Overall, childhood development and speech is very complex. There are so many factors that may contribute to your child hitting speech and language milestones as expected or not.
When delays arise, there are no quick fixes, but you can do your part to support your child’s development. It’s never too early to incorporate speech and language stimulation into your daily routine to help maximize your child’s success!
“Communicating with Baby: Tips and Milestones from Birth to Age 5.” Identify The Signs, 20 Nov. 2017, https://identifythesigns.org/communicating-with-baby-toolkit/.
“Default – Stanford Children’s Health.” Stanford Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=age-appropriate-speech-and-language-milestones-90-P02170.
“Speech and Language Development.” PeaceHealth, https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/hw265266. “Speech and Language Developmental Milestones.” National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/speech-and-language.
Reviewed by: Leah Gross OTR/L