Parents look forward to hearing their child’s first words. They cherish the memory of the first word and often make predictions of what it will be. From there, children continue to learn, forming phrases and sentences and effectively learning how to communicate their needs and desires. However, some children, fall behind in speech and language development and many parents may become concerned if it seems as though their child isn’t measuring up to their peers speech development.
Every child develops their speech and language at a different rate. Some children may be extremely advanced at a very young age, while others may be right on target, or just a little behind. All of these rates of language and speech development are normal. However, if your child is falling behind more than just a little, it may be cause for concern.
Six to Twelve Months
Your baby has most likely been babbling, cooing and testing out different tones, pitches and sounds. Your baby may have as many as a dozen simple words, such as “mama,” or “dada” in his or her vocabulary by now. If your child dosen’t speak actual words at this point, don’t fret. It’s normal at this point.
Twelve to Eighteen Months
Your child should have several words mastered. Your child will also have the ability to connect meanings to the words. For example, your child may understand that when they say “drink” they are asking for something to drink. Words spoken at this age are often more meaningful, and less random than previously. Your child may still babble, and continue to test out sounds.
Eighteen to Twenty-Four Months
By now, your child likely has anywhere between fifty and two hundred words under their belt. Your child is learning roughly a dozen words per day and may begin forming very rudimentary two and three word sentences. By your child’s second birthday, he or she may begin to talk about feelings, such as being happy or sad.
Twenty-Four to Thirty-Six Months
Your child is probably getting the hang of verbs and the different tenses by now. For example, “wash,” “washing,” and “washed.” They may still slip up, but it’s very likely they will attempt to use the correct tenses. At this point, your child should be mastering pronouns as well, beginning to understand the difference between words such as “she” and “her.” By the time your child turns three, he or she should be able to carry on basic conversations with others.
If you feel your child is more than just a little bit behind where they should be in their speech and language development, then it’s important that you take steps to help address the concern. Many organizations, such as the Infant Learning Program, offer free developmental screenings. Often times, these programs will meet you in their offices, or your home, whichever is most convenient for you. Someone who is trained, will perform a development screening on your child, involving a series of simple tests. These tests differ based on your child’s age. The screening will then be evaluated and assessed and you will then be contacted regarding what services your child may benefit from implementing. If you are unable to find a similar program in your area, visit your child’s pediatrician with your concerns, and ask for referrals for programs, or even speech therapists in your area. Often times, speech therapy can be billed to private insurances and medicaid. Most states do have an early intervention program, such as the Infant Learning Program, in place, however, it may go by different names from state to state.
The most important thing to do if you feel your child is suffering from a speech and language delay, is to continue working with your child. Make sure you talk to them frequently, read books, and spend lots of time working together on language. Don’t be afraid to seek out the help of community resources or speech therapists to help work on and improve your child’s speech. A speech delay can be frustrating at times, but with the proper amount of encouragement, and effort you can help your child overcome it.