Parents often ask me is it ever too early to begin working on speech development? My answer is that it is never too early to begin connecting with your child and laying a foundation on which to grow. One of the first ways to start this connection is through Joint Attention.
What is joint attention? Joint attention is the sharing of an experience between a child and a partner. During the infant stage, this is most often with the caregiver, and is expressed by baby through eye contact. A shared experience is defined as looking at or directing attention to an object or event. Most often by the age of 1, baby's are pointing to objects or events of interest to them and they want you to share in their enjoyment. Joint attention is critical and an essential stepping stone in the development of language and social skills. If you are concerned that your child is not displaying joint attention by the age of 12-18 months it is recommended that you discuss this with your child's pediatrician.
Here are some activities to help engage and establish joint attention:
1. Tell your child, "Look at me," then tap his/her face and then your face. After you have given this verbal cue, give your child time to respond.
*It is important to note the importance of "wait time". This is a term that refers to the pause you provide when giving a command to your child. A good rule is to wait 10 seconds between giving the same or another command. This allows for processing.*
2. Point to a toy that your child likes and say, "look!" Gently turn his/her head toward the toy if they don't turn it on their own.
3. Blow bubbles and say, "look!" Point as your child tracks the bubble.
4. When your child becomes interested in books, point to the pictures and say, "Look it's a ____." Take your child's finger and point to the item you want them to look at. Picture books with peek-a-boo flaps are great for practicing this.
5. When another family member walks into the room, point and say, "Look it's ____!" Reward your child by looking with a physical activity, tickling or patting.
If you have practiced this skill over time and have concerns with progress and early development please contact your pediatrician for an evaluation and what resources are available to parents. Once a child reaches the age of two or older The Speech Spot can begin assisting little ones who are in need of some extra attention!
Source Credit: Portions of this post reference the Super Duper Handout on Joint Attention by Linda Mawhinney and Mary Scott McTeague