To continue our blog series this month celebrating Better Speech and Hearing Month, we will focus on our tiniest communicators, infants. Most parents would assume that speech and language skills can only be assessed or addressed after a child has begun speaking around the age of 1. However, there are many skills to be watching for well before a first word is spoken. Humans are pre-wired with the desire to communicate. We were literally born that way. Listed next are some general milestones to be looking for in your infant:
Birth to 12-Month Milestones:
• Making cooing sounds (birth–3 months)
• Making speech-like babbling sounds, such as pa, ba, and mi (4–6 months)
• Responding to changes in tone of voice (4–6 months)
• Babbling long strings of sounds, such as mimi upup babababa (7–12 months)
• Imitating different speech sounds (7–12 months)
• Understanding words for common items/people, like truck, juice, and daddy (7–12 months)
• Starting to respond to simple words/phrases, like “No,” “Come here,” and “Want more?” (7–12 months)
• Saying 1 or 2 words, like hi, dog, dada, mama, or uh-oh.
This happens around their first birthday, but sounds may not be clear. Note about communication development: Children develop at their own pace. These are the average ages when most children have developed these skills.
Another important piece to remember is that communication is a skill learned by watching, listening, and interacting with parents/caregivers. Parents/caregivers teach their children to talk through simple, everyday activities.
Some communication tips for parents/caregivers are:
• Mirror baby’s laughter and facial expressions.
• Respond to babies’ sounds and gestures.
• Talk, talk, and talk some more. Narrate daily activities (“You are eating peas. Peas are good.”)
• Read to children every day.
• Talk to children in the language they are most comfortable using.
Quantity and Quality Count! The more a parent talks, the bigger a child’s vocabulary will be. Parents should use all types of words—big and small.
Warning Signs: Even at this early stage, it’s a good idea to pay attention to whether a child is meeting milestones. Red flags include not babbling (4–7 months) and making only a few sounds or gestures (7–12 months). Many speech and/or language disorders can be reversed, or even prevented, if caught early.
Sources: All information was taken from the ASHA website dedicated to infant warning signs. Find out more information at https://www.asha.org/public/.