LAN­GUAGE DE­VEL­OP­MENT: MILE­STONES ARE A GUIDE

Joondalup Weekender - - Opinion -

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.

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