Language development is a process starting early in human life and is an important skill that allows us to communicate. Infants start without knowing a language, yet by 10 months, babies can distinguish speech sounds and engage in babbling.Typically, children develop internal processing and understanding of language, before their verbal or expressive language develops. As receptive language continues to increase, expressive language begins to slowly develop. Some children may not develop speech and language skills at the expected rate and are referred to as ‘late talkers’. If you are a parent or caregiver of a late talker, you may be wondering how to hep him or her move forward in this area of development. In this post, we will delve further into language development and a few fun and easy ways you can enjoy communicating with your child.
Language – how and why children communicate
Communication isn’t just about talking. Whenever two people send messages of any kind to each other – even without words- they are communicating. For example, babies communicate through crying, smiling, making sounds, moving their bodies or reaching for something. As they grow, children begin to let you know what’s on their minds in similar ways whether it be through gestures, facial expression, speech or signs. Even before they use words, children communicate for many different reasons: to tell you what they want or don’t want, to get your attention, to ask questions, or to make comments.
Supporting language development
You’ve already started. Children don’t learn to talk all by themselves. They learn to communicate gradually as they spend time with the important people in their lives.
Learning more about how and why your child communicates will help you see and hear the messages he/she sends you- even the ones that aren’t so obvious. Whether they are still discovering language (reacting to what is happening around them but not communicating with a specific purpose in mind), communicating specific messages without using words, using single spoken words (or signs or pictures), or combining words into sentences, being aware of how child communicates will help support your interactions and progress through the stages.
When you and your child are communicating back and forth, with or without words, you are taking part in an interaction. The best way to encourage your child to communicate is to let them start more interactions with you. Instead of leading or directing the interaction yourself, let your child lead. By letting your child lead and responding with interest to what they are telling you, they will want to communicate with you even more.
Tips for letting your child lead
- Get face to face: whenever you can, make it easy for your child to look right into your eyes
- Observe, Wait and Listen: this will give your child a chance to start and interaction and open up opportunities for more back-and-forth interactions – you may discover that your child is communicating more than you realised.
- Create opportunities: instead of rushing to give your child something you know they’ll want, create an opportunity for them to ask for it – place a favourite object out of reach… then wait, offer a little bit…then wait, offer a choice… then wait.
- Interpret: interpreting your child’s message is a powerful was of way of letting them know that you are listening and trying to understand. Put into words what you think they are trying to tell you. Copy and exaggerate actions, facial expressions, sounds and words that they use. Use ‘real’ talk and avoid the use of ‘baby talk’.
Ways to promote language development
- Talk, talk, talk!
- Read: books are a very powerful way to explore and develop language
- Enjoy music together
- Don’t underestimate the power of play
- Use routines: explore your child’s surroundings and talk about what is happening during everyday activities (e.g. bath time)
Children with communication difficulties, or ‘late talkers’, progress through the same stages as other children, but more slowly. Encouraging language development can be fun and easy to incorporate into your existing routines. Be open to interacting with your child in new ways, observing gestures and facial expressions carefully and following his or her lead.
What to do now?
If you are worried about the speech and language development of an important young child in your life, give us a call at Generation Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.
Article written by Jessarna Jones