LET’S TALK: HOW IS YOUR CHILD’S SPEECH AND LANGUAGE?

We all want our children to grow up to be good communicators, but what does that mean? What we are really saying is that we want our children to be able to express themselves, to engage in appropriate conversation, to explain how they are feeling and why, to tell us about things that have happened and to be develop positive social relationships. We want our children to be able to speak clearly so they are understood by their family, friends, teachers and others in the community. We want our children to learn to be good listeners, speaking “with” people and not “at” them and to respond appropriately to what they hear.

How do you know if your child is lagging behind his or her peers and is not an effective and successful communicator? Most parents and caretakers have a good sense about whether or not their child is on the right track, but may or may not know what skills are in need of strengthening and what behaviors are getting in the way of talking, listening and/or participating. Here are some red flags to look out for that may signal that you need to look further into your child’s speech and language skills:

  • if your child is between 8-12 months of age and is not babbling (playing with different speech sounds) and/ or turning towards and looking at people who are talking
  • if your child is between 1- 1 ½ years of age and is not using meaningful words, following simple directions and/or demonstrating appropriate eye contact
  • if your child is between 1 ½ -2 years of age and is not talking with a vocabulary of at least 100 words, starting to combine words and/or understanding simple directions and questions such as “what” and “where”
  • if your child is between 2-3 years of age and is using a lot of jargon when talking (non-meaningful gibberish), pointing rather than speaking, answering your question by repeating the question, using only one-word utterances and/or does not seem to understand simple directions and questions
  • if your child is between 3-3 ½ years of age and cannot be understood most of the time, is not speaking in sentences, using grammatical endings (eg. –ing, plural “s”), talking about what other people are doing and/or responding appropriately to various questions and directions
  • if your child is 3 ½-4 years of age and is not speaking about past events, asking many questions (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), speaking in connected sentences, speaking clearly and/or following 2-3 part directions
  • if your child is 4-5 years of age and has problems with pronunciation of words, is not able to describe an outing or event, answer complex questions appropriately (eg. “why,” “how,” “when”), use imaginative language in pretend play and/or follow several directions consistently

The first years of a child’s life provide the foundation for what kind of communicator your child will be. If you recognize any of the above behaviors in your child’s speech and/or language, you should contact a speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns. If help is needed, the speech-language pathologist will recommend an individual program of activities to help your child and provide therapy if it is appropriate. Remember, we want to help our children to be the best that they can be!

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