One of the things that parents worry about in their child's growing process is their speech and language developmental milestones. However, it is important to keep in mind that the speech development milestones according to the age of a child vary widely.
This is because there are some children who are able to speak some simple words even before they turn 13 months old. On the other hand, some children need extra time and are only able to make simple conversations with adults by the time they reach two years of age.
The development of communication skills starts when your child is just an infant and before he or she starts to utter the first word. This article provides parents with the causes of speech delay, speech and language developmental milestones at different age ranges and tips on leading their child towards proper speech development.
Causes of speech delay:
1. Hearing problems
Children may experience speech delay if their hearing is impaired. Hence, if your child is speech delayed, his or her hearing should be tested as well.
2. Intellectual disability
This is also a common cause of speech and language delay as children learn how to speak through processing and comprehending what the people around them are saying.
Autism affects communication. Speech and communication problems are often an early sign of autism.
4. Genetic influence
Some parents took extra time to learn how to speak when they were young. Influenced by the genetics factor, their children may also develop the speech skill at a later stage. If this is the factor affecting your child's speech development, parents do not need to worry.
5. Environment at home
The environment and at home and parenting is an important factor that affects the speech development of the children. Some parents are introverts and are quiet at home. Others may take less initiative to communicate with their children. Due to the lack of persons to talk to, to imitate and learn from, children from such families may have a slower development in speech.
6. Nutrition and diseases
Proper and wholesome nutrition is an important support for the child's speech development. If the child suffers from malnutrition, his or her speech development will be impaired. Some diseases, especially the ones that impact the brain, can have a negative impact on the speech development.
If your child cannot speak by the age of 18 months, it is suggested that parents take their child to the hospital to do a complete check.
Speech and language developmental milestones according to age:
How do you check if your child has the speech delay? There is no absolute guide to when a child should start cooing, babbling or uttering words. However, we have listed the normal stages of speech and language development according to different age ranges.
Below are the ages by which most monolingual children will accomplish the listed milestones. Do take note that the milestones of bilingual children may be delayed by a few months due to confusion between the words and tones of two languages.
Not accomplishing all achievements in the age category does not mean that your child has a disorder. Most of the times, children can only finish reaching all the milestones that are mentioned in an age category when they reach the upper age in each age range.
0 to 3 months
Babies can make pleasure sounds which are cooing and gooing at this age. They will also cry differently when they need different things. Furthermore, they will smile at you when they see you, which is a sign of acknowledging you.
4 to 6 months
At this age, babies can babble sounds which are more speech-like, sounds including p, b and m. Your baby will also be able to chuckle and laugh when they are happy and can make sounds to express excitement and displeasure. Furthermore, they make gurgling sounds when left alone or when playing with you.
7 months to 12 months
Their babbling has progressed to long and short groups of sounds such as "tata upup bibibibi". They also use gestures to communicate such as waving and raising their arms to be picked up. They are able to imitate different speech sounds.
They will also have one or two words such as "hi", "dog", "dada", "mama" around 1 year of age, although these words might be unclear.
By 12 to 15 months
Children should be able to make a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling such as p, b, m, d or n. Nouns usually come first, such as "bottle" and "ball". Additionally, they should be able to comprehend and follow simple one-step instructions like "Please give me the bottle".
18 to 24 months
Most children are able to say about 20 words by the age of 18 months. By the time they turn two, they say 50 or more words. At 2, they can also identify common objects in person and pictures. For example, they can point to the eyes, nose or ears when asked. They can also follow two-step commands such as "Please pick up the bottle and give it to me".
From 2 to 3 years
During this time, parents often observe big improvements in their child's speech. Toddlers' vocabulary will increase and they are able to combine three or more words into sentences in their daily life.
By the age of 3, children will also be able to understand sentences better. They start to understand the difference between "put on the bed" and "put under the chair". Better comprehension skills also mean they can understand descriptive concepts like big versus small and can identify different colours.
From 3 to 4 years
Children should be able to tell a story, with sentence length of 4 to 5 words. They will also know a lot more vocabulary, the names of streets and some nursery rhymes.
Tips on leading your child towards proper speech development:
1. Reinforce your baby's communication attempts
When your child speaks or vocalises, it is important to look at him or her and imitate his or her vocalizations.
2. Guide your baby
Teach your baby to imitate actions such as clapping, blowing kisses and waving. These games teach children the nature of turn-taking, which is required for conversation.
3. Relate it to daily life
Whenever you teach your child a new word, you should try to relate it to a daily item or a daily situation so that your child can have a stronger impression of the new word and it will be easy for him or her to remember and understand.
For instance, you can try talking while you do things. When you are hanging the laundry, you can say "Mummy is hanging your clothes". When you can bathing and feeding his or her brother, you can say "Mummy is washing Tim's hair" and "Tim is eating porridge".
Feel free to tell your child stories to boost their comprehension skills. Tell them where you are going, what you will see and do. Children learn through these little stories that you tell them. For example, you can say in a systematic and understandable matter. "Mummy is going to your Grandma's house. It is in Malaysia. I am going to make cakes together with Grandma. Your cousin Jane will be helping us to decorate the cakes".
In this way, they are able to think and comprehend different events better, and link items and people to events and places. By cultivating in them the ability to think and form connections, it will be easier for them to group and understand different words and progressively form their own sentences and stories.
4. Teach animal sounds
Teaching animal sounds to them allow for sounds to come alive and be interesting for them. Show them pictures of animals, point it to them, and tell them their names and the sounds they make. You can also show them videos of animals making sounds. As such, they will be able to comprehend that different animals make different sounds and also practice the sounds starting with different consonants.
5. Praise or reward your child
When your children take the initiative to talk to you, parents should reward them, regardless of the correctness of their speech. This can stimulate the enthusiasm of your children to speak and also help them to gain confidence.
6. Be patient
Parents should avoid repeatedly correcting their child's mistake. This will hurt the child's confidence and his or her enthusiasm to learn more. Be patient and try to pronounce slowly so that it is easy for your child to emulate.
What you should do if you suspect that your child has speech delay:
Some experts recommend waiting until the child turns two before bringing him or her to do a speech evaluation. However, there is no harm referring him or her to the expert earlier if you suspect that your child is experiencing speech delay.
Parents should ensure that their child's speech and language problem are identified and treated early because this means the speech problems are less likely to persist or get worse.
Resolving any problems early and ensuring proper speech development in your child will allow him or her to take on reading, writing, schoolwork and interpersonal relationships better as they start schooling.
However, that said, it is important not to stress over the "ideal" milestones or compare your child to other children. All you need to do is to put in a consistent effort in leading your child towards proper speech development. Every child is different and it is fine to be slightly behind by a few months and by longer if you are raising a bilingual child.