Nothing can compare to the sound of your infant’s first words; any parent knows that. If you are the parent of a newborn, you are probably already waiting for this moment impatiently, to know if your infant’s speech and language development is on track. One thing to keep in mind is that every child learns to speak at his or her own pace, so it would basically be no use in rushing the process. However, there are a couple of general milestones that can serve as a guide to normal speech and language development:
Milestone 1: by the end of a 12 weeks’ period
Your infant should be able to:
- Make “cooing” sounds
- Quiet or smile when spoken to
- Respond to or recognize your voice
- Have different crying types for his or her different needs
Milestone 2: by the end of a 24 weeks’ period
Your baby will be able to:
- Move his or her eyes in the direction of sounds
- Respond to changes in the tone of your voice
- Babble and make a variety of sounds
- Use his or her voice to express pleasure and displeasure
- Notice that some toys make sounds
- Pay attention to music
Milestone 3: by the end of a 12-month period
Your infant will:
- Try imitating speech sounds
- Say a few words, such as “dada,” “mama” and “uh-oh”
- Understand simple instructions, such as “Come here”
- Recognize words for common items, such as “shoe”
- Turn and look in the direction of sounds
Milestone 4: by the end of an 18-month period
Baby will be able to:
- Recognize names of familiar people, objects and body parts
- Follow simple directions accompanied by gestures
- Say as many as eight to 10 words
Milestone 5: By the age of 2
Your toddler might be able to:
- Use simple phrases, such as “more milk”
- Ask one- to two-word questions, such as “Go bye-bye?”
- Follow simple commands and understand simple questions
- Speak at least 50 words
How to encourage your infant’s speech and language development
There are many things a parent can do to nurture this kind of growth.
Here are just a few tips:
- Play games such as peekaboo.
- Read and sing to your baby, and play music.
- Consistently tell your baby the names of things around him or her, both inside and outside.
- Talk to your infant using baby talk. The higher pitch, slower speech, and emphasis placed on certain words will draw the baby’s attention.
- Talk with your baby while you are doing your normal activities.
- Repeat a sound to your baby and adding words that begin with that sound. For example, if your baby says “ma,” repeat it to him or her and then say “mama.”
When Is It Time to Call a Developmental Expert?
If you notice a delay in your child’s speech and language development, there might be a problem that you need to address. Speech delays occur for many reasons, including hearing loss and developmental disorders. Depending on the circumstances, a developmental therapy professional might refer your child to a hearing specialist (audiologist) or a speech-language pathologist.
Don’t panic, as the underlying cause may be something minimal, or it just may be that your child is developing slower. However, if you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s development, contact an expert and stay on top of the problem.