Speech and language skills are at the root of your child’s cognitive and social emotional development. Research overwhelmingly supports the connection of speech and language to reading and math success and it also shows that social and emotional skills can be traced directly to language skills. Children need words to develop appropriate strategies for conflict resolution and to read social cues of others. Their emotional strength and resilience develop from the success they have understanding others and communicating their needs.So how does speech and language develop?From 12-24 months the eruption of new vocabulary is an exciting daily occurrence. Typically, by two, children have 200 words. Those 200 words explode in typical three years old to an understanding of 2-3000 words and the ability to use 1000 words. It’s an incredible accomplishment!! (And just a start on more than 80000 words needed to be college ready).Parents can individually “scaffold” the acquisition of new words with affectionate one on one attention to what the child knows and what the child can acquire next. They can be there to track and nurture new words and new sentence structures as they emerge and to consciously enrich a child’s developing skills in a multitude of contexts. When should you see a speech language pathologist?Language delays include problems understanding what is heard or read (receptive language delays) or problems putting words together to form meaning (expressive language delay). Some children have both speech and language delays.If your child does not reach developmental milestones on schedule, it does not mean necessarily mean there is a problem. But he/she needs to be evaluated by a health professional.Red flags for speech and language delay include:
• No babbling by 9 months
.• No first word by 15 months
.• No consistent word by 18 months
.• Slowed or stagnant speech development.
• Problems understanding your child’s speech by 24 months of age; strangers having problem understanding your child’s speech by 36 months of age.
• Not showing any interest in communication.Also, talk to your health professional anytime you or other caregiver has concerns about your child’s speech and language development or other problem that affects your child’s speech or understanding of speech such as
• Excessive drooling
• Problems in sucking, chewing or swallowing
• Problems in control and coordination of lips tongue and jaw.
• Stuttering that causes a child embarrassment, frustration or difficulty with peers.
• Poor memory skills by the time your child reaches kindergarten age (5-6 yrs). He or she may have difficulty learning colours, numbers, shapes or the alphabet.Other red flags include-
• Failure to respond normally, such as not responding when spoken to. This may include signs that the child does not hear well such as reacting to loud noises.
• A sudden loss of speech and language skills. Loss of abilities at any age should be addressed immediately.
• Not speaking clearly or well by age 3.Remember, in order to maximize the benefits of any speech and language intervention, it should be started as early as possible without losing any of the precious early five years of the child.
(Writer is a Consultant Audiologist and Speech Language Pathologist)