Is my child’s speech-language development on track?

Is my child’s speech-language development on track?

Communication starts at birth well before first words are spoken. Although every child is different, there are specific speech-language skills that all children should be able to demonstrate by certain ages.

Early communication skills are called prelinguistic skills, which include behaviors such as smiling when spoken to, cooing and babbling, participating in turn-taking games and using gestures like waving or pointing to communicate. If a baby is not demonstrating these behaviors, their speech-language abilities may be delayed.

By 12 months, a child should start saying their first words, and they should be able to understand simple questions and commands like “Where is your shoe?” or “Roll the ball.” The ability to say words and understand spoken language is referred to as linguistic skills.

By age 2, a child should be combining words into simple, two-word phrases. However, a child with limited prelinguistic skills will most likely demonstrate a delay in later linguistic abilities, as well.

Limited or no use of gestures (such as pointing or waving), limited or no production of words or babbling and difficulty understanding commands may indicate a language delay or disorder. This means the child may require direct intervention to learn how to communicate effectively. A speech-language pathologist can help these children improve their comprehension and use of spoken language. The earlier intervention is started, the easier it is for children to make language gains.

In some instances, delays in prelinguistic and linguistic skills can be red flags for other disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. Seeking early treatment for speech-language delays can help parents and professionals identify these underlying causes for speech-language impairments. Early identification and treatment for disorders such as autism is important because speech-language pathologists can work with families to help children learn functional communication early on, helping with overall communication abilities as they get older. Functional communication means having the ability to express wants, needs and ideas at home, at school and in the community for social interaction and everyday activities.

If you are a parent and you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s speech-language development, you can talk to your pediatrician about seeking an evaluation at Advocate Trinity Hospital.

Jennifer Favela is a pediatric speech language pathologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.

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Jennifer Favela

Jennifer Favela is a pediatric speech language pathologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.