LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: MILESTONES ARE A GUIDE
LANGUAGE development is an amazing and fundamental part of your child’s development, beginning even before they are born.
It supports your child’s ability to communicate, express and understand feelings, think, solve problems, and develop and maintain relationships.
Learning to understand, use and enjoy language is also the first critical step in learning to read and write.
While language learning is a lifelong journey, the first few years of life are especially important.
So how do you know if your child’s language development is on track?
All children progress at different rates, but certain milestones offer a rough guide to what is ‘normal’.
For example, between 0 and 3 months, infants typically communicate by crying, cooing, smiling and making eye contact.
They develop the ability to hear, recognise and respond to familiar people, sounds and voices.
Between three and 9 months infants can usually point, blow raspberries, laugh, play with sounds and communicate by babbling.
Around 12 months the babbling begins to sound more like real words, and between 12 and 18 months most infants say their first words.
By two years most toddlers can say around 50 words and are starting to join two or three words together.
However, almost one in five children will be ‘late to talk’ and show signs of language delay at this point.
About 80 per cent of those who are late to talk will catch up by seven years of age, with the remaining 20 per cent continuing to have trouble.
Late talking can have lifelong impacts and can be a red flag for disorders such as hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay.
Most school-aged children with impaired language were late talkers.
As we don’t know which late talkers will catch up, we recommend that if in the first two years of life you’re worried about your child’s speech or language development, and/or if they are late to talk, you have their hearing checked and contact a speech pathologist.
Speech pathologists are trained to diagnose and work with children who have speech and language difficulties.
To find a speech pathologist speak with your GP or child health nurse about local services.
To learn more about Origins, including the project’s language research, visit www.originsproject.telethonkids.org.au
Dr Erika Hagemann.