A common cause of anxiety among parents is how their child learns to speak. When will they say their first word? Are they behind other children? Should they have more words? When will they speak in sentences?
It’s difficult to compare speech development between children; there is no hard and fast rule for exactly when a child should begin to speak. However, there are certain behaviors that make an appearance before speech in most children. These pre-linguistic behaviors help a child develop the necessary skills for future spoken communication. Take a look at this list to see what to expect before your child says their first “Mama”.
Eye Contact: Children are able to focus their eyes at a short distance—eight to ten inches—shortly after birth. As this focus continues to develop, you’ll notice that your child focuses on human faces with increasing frequency. Eye contact shows that the child is recognizing another human being and open to engaging with them. This engagement is an important precursor to language.
Joint Attention: Joint attention is when both the child and another individual are intentionally paying attention to the same object or event. Early on, the parent will initiate this interaction. As the child develops, the child will begin to initiate the joint attention himself, looking or pointing at an object, looking at the parent, and then looking back at the object.
Gesture: Long before a child is able to use words to communicate, they will use gestures. When a child points to his favorite toy that’s out of his reach or signals with open hands that his snack is “all gone”, they are using an early form of communication. This is an early example of a child’s understanding that he can communicate his thoughts and ideas to others. This basic understanding is the foundation for communication and language.
Up next week: a look at the sounds a child makes on their way to their first words.
Are you concerned about your child’s speech or language development? At Speech Associates of New York, our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists provide in-home evaluations and therapy. Each of our professionals is trained in the assessment and treatment of a range of pediatric and adult speech, language and communication disorders. Call us today at (917) 841-2965 and find out how we can you’re your child communicate their best!