Early stages of speech and language development are important for children. As an expert in the field of speech-language pathology, and being a mother of a one-year-old child, I think it’s really important to discuss speech and language skills of children. I see parents coming with their four-year-old, or older child worried that their child is not speaking even at this age. When we study the history of the child, we see that the child had a delay at the early stages, which was neglected by parents. They have opted for a “let’s wait and see” approach, and this has resulted in speech and language disorder or delay. Personally and professionally, I do not support this “let’s wait and see” approach, as it limits a child’s speaking and learning skills. Here are a few key points for parents to look out for to ensure the development of speech and language skills in the first six months of your baby’s life.
- At an early stage, you will see your child giving sudden responses like an eye blink or a startled movement to loud noises/sounds. These reflexes improve when baby starts paying attention to the speaker’s voice by maintaining eye to eye contact. As he slowly attains the skill of head control, your child will move his head towards the source of the sound with more accuracy. Eventually, he will start giving bodily responses like smiling or pleasurable body movements to familiar voices. This is entirely dependant on the baby’s listening ability up to six months of age.
- Crying is the first expression of your child’s need. This cry will slowly change, taking a different tone or volume, which will help the mother or caretaker realise if the child is crying for a feed or a nap. Your baby won’t just communicate by crying. They will make pleasurable sounds, laugh, or make sounds from their throat. Babies make these sounds not only when they’re playing alone, but also when we talk or sing to them. These are your child’s expression based skills.
Even if your child is a full-term, healthy baby or a preterm, low birth weight baby, your child’s speech and language skills are completely based on the stimulation at home. When there are complications faced at an early stage, then more intensive stimulation is required at later stages. It’s completely based on play and talk process. But the way you play with your baby and the way you talk to your baby matters.
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