Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Language Development

Do you ever wonder if your child’s language abilities are at age level? Do you compare your child’s speech with that of other children?

Here are a few things to ask yourself:

Is my baby vocalizing and babbling? Babies should be playing with their voices and sounds. Babies from 3-6 months should be “cooing,” which is vocalizing mostly vowel sounds. Babies begin “babbling” at around 6 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?) 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.

Is my toddler putting words together into sentences? Toddlers typically begin using 2-word phrases at about 18 months. If a child is not doing this by age 2, he may be considered delayed in language skills.

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.

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