If you are here, chances are that either you are a parent concerned about your Child’s language development, or you are a speech language pathologist assistant student trying to learn more about the topic.
Either way, I’m glad you are here because I want to share with you the basics of speech and language development in children.
To get started, we need to know what is language anyways?
- language is the combination of words to make a sentence
- Humans use language to communicate such as speaking, reading and writing
- Language does not always have to be spoken. For example, Sign language
- Tone, voice, and facial expressions are important factors when it comes to language. The same set of words can be perceived differently based on these factors.
- Different countries have different languages
- Braille and Chinese characters are some of the examples of different types of languages
Two Types of Language
When it comes to a child’s speech, it is important that the child both has receptive and expressive language. If you are a speech language pathology student, you might know these terms very well. Let me explain this to you in the simplest way possible. Receptive is referring to a child’s understanding of a language. For example, when a child reacts to your sentence, or when you ask a question, the child answers, that would be considered receptive. Receptive disorders can be targeted by a speech language pathologist. Expressive language refers to the child’s ability to express the language. For example, when a child attempts to say a word, babbling, or talking are all examples of expressive language. As you might have guessed already, expressive disorders can also be treated by a speech language pathologist.
Now that we know what language is, we can go ahead and see the language developmental stages in children ages 0-5 years old.
Development of Language
By the way, an interesting fact. Did you know that children can begin learning a language in the womb?
Research suggests that babies can begin to absorb language in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. They hear and distinguish between different sounds, patterns and rhythms. Based on this, it is safe to say that the child starts developing language before they are born. During the first 3 years of life, the brain is growing, maturing, and developing, making these first few years crucial for language development. Even though it is possible to learn language after the first 5 year, however, it becomes very difficult if the brain is not developed for language and speech.
Here is a chart I created to summarize the language developmental stages in children:
When should you be concerned?
Keep in mind that kids follow their own timeline when it comes to developing language. Your child might not be hitting the exact milestones, or might be a little delayed. Here are signs that might be of a concern. If a 2 year old child is unable to make simple vocalizations or follow basic commands, that might be a sign of speech delay and professional help might be needed.
What Should You do If Your Child is not Hitting the Language Milestones?
If you ever have a doubt or have concerns about your child’s developmental milestones, be sure to talk to the child’s doctor. In most cases, the doctor might refer you to a speech language pathologist to be evaluated. The child might also be referred to an audiologist to make sure the speech delay is not caused by the child’s hearing. The speech language pathologist will evaluate the child and based on the evaluation results, they will come up with a treatment plan to target specific needs. Most of the time the speech language pathologist will assign homework to the parent to practice and target different goals at home. There are also many different games and activities parents can try to do to improve the child’s speech (depending on his/her speech needs).
To learn about Direct vs. Indirect forms of speech therapy, you might want to read this: Indirect therapy – Speech Improvement Center
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
The New Age Parents