Baby talk

Jonathan Fielding,MD wrote in a recent L.A.Times article about children who were not learning to speak at the appropriate age when children should be learning to use language. Learning speaking (language) skills is a developmental process that all young children go through as their brain develops and becomes able to understand spoken words and visual images. Children that do not achieve appropriate skills can develop serious speech disorders and find it difficult to catch up as the brain does not easily learn language skills later in it’s development when it is busy learning other skills. (That’s why young children learn foreign languages so much easier than adults do)

Three year old children that are still babbling and talking “baby talk” sound adorable, but parents need to be more aware that this is a sign of retarded language skills that may need professional help. First thing to check out is whether the child’s hearing is impaired in any way. Another important and preventable cause of language problems is a lack of adequate exposure to language (talking). Children learn language skills by example. Most children recognize the basic sounds of language by 6 months of age. Parents should constantly describe what is going on around young children, pointing to and naming things familiar to a child. As a child begins to make sounds and use words, parents should focus attention on the child and encourage more and more conversation. Reading aloud to a child is the simplest and best way to encourage good speaking and language skills.

Here are the milestones to help determine if your child is learning language skills on time:

0-6 Months: Reacts to loud sounds and turns head toward a sound. Laughs, cries, and fusses. Makes noise when talked to.

6-12 Months: Repeats repetitive syllables or babbles (da da da). Tries to communicate by actions or gestures. Attempts to repeat sounds you speak to them.

12-18 Months: Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures. Answers simple questions non-verbally. Can recognize and point to common objects.

18-24 Months: Follows simple directions without gestures. Says 8-10 words. Understands simple verbs such as “eat” and “sleep”. Correctly pronounces vowels, and the letters n,m,p, & h (especially at the beginning of syllables and short words).

2-3 Years: Can speak at least 40 words. Answers simple questions. Speaks in 2 & 3 word phrases. Speech becoming more accurate and understandable to parents (not necessarily to strangers).

3-4 Years: Uses most speech sounds. Only distorts the difficult ones such as l,r,s,sh,ch,y,v,z, & th. These sounds are sometimes not fully mastered until age 8. Child expresses ideas and feelings verbally.

4-5 Years: Understands complex questions. Only long and complicated words, such as Hippopotamus, causing mistakes in pronunciation.

5 Years: Child is comfortable engaging in conversation and using sentences with 8 or more words.

Roberta Lester-Britton specializes in working with parents of young children to help identify developmental delays.

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Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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