Every mother knows that no two children develop in the same fashion – neither playmates, nor siblings, nor twins.
Even so, physicians and speech-language therapists have identified typical developmental milestones for babies, including milestones for speech development. Milestones are particular accomplishments that are achieved in a predictable order – for example most babies sit up before crawling, and crawl before walking.
When it comes to speech development, babies begin to babble between 4 and 7 months. They are usually surprised and delighted with their vocal capabilities, and will enjoy making all sorts of sounds, from “raspberries” to repeated syllables to high pitched shrieks.
Even though an infant is not yet using words, he must hear words in order to learn them. That is why at about 9 months one of the most important building blocks of language appears, called joint attention.
Joint attention is the infant’s ability to look where other people are looking. Infants start to focus their visual attention on the same object that a caregiver is focusing on. For example, Mom is looking at the bottle of milk and baby also looks at the bottle of milk. Mom says “bottle”, baby learns to associate the sounds of the word “bottle” with the seen object.
Children vary in the number of times they need to hear a word and associate it with an object before they actually learn the word. Children with language delays may need to hear words many more times than typically developing children before they add those words to their vocabulary. They also may need individualized or specific input in order to engage their attention.
The four building blocks of language learning are joint attention, listening, play and understanding.
It is a good idea to follow the child’s lead in determining topics of conversation to help the child’s language learning. Pretend play with imaginative toys such as stuffed animals, figurines, dress up toys, kitchen sets, shared book reading etc. provide excellent opportunities.
Most importantly, remember that children learn language from people, not screens. They learn from their caregivers in social situations.
Most babies begin to speak their first words at age 12 months. A pediatrician will recommend a Speech/Language evaluation is the child is not using single words by the 15 – 18 month well visit.
By 18 to 24 months, babies are combining 2 words and beginning to use simple sentences. A pediatrician will recommend a Speech/Language evaluation if the child is not combining words by the 24 month well visit.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time entirely for children under the age of 2 including television, computer, phone, ipad.