Tod­dler Q&A

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -


My 14-month-old daugh­ter has not yet started talk­ing – she doesn’t even use made-up sounds or bab­ble. I can’t wait for her first word! Is this at all nor­mal?


Kerry Wal­lace an­swers:

Al­though there is a general time­line for the de­vel­op­ment of speech and lan­guage, and many ba­bies of 14 months are de­vel­op­ing a vo­cab­u­lary of one- or two-word sen­tences, there is a wide range of typ­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Us­ing words to com­mu­ni­cate is one of the mile­stones par­ents watch out for, but there are many foun­da­tion skills that pre­cede “mama” – the sound ut­tered in most lan­guages as a first word.

From the time they are just a few hours old, in­fants show they have the abil­ity to so­cially in­ter­act with adults, as mother and new­born gaze into each other’s eyes. From a few months of age so­cial be­hav­iour can be ob­served in a va­ri­ety of ways. Through your baby’s abil­ity to co­or­di­nate gaze, fa­cial ex­pres­sion, ges­tures and sounds she com­mu­ni­cates her de­sires and feel­ings.

It re­quires time and com­mit­ment to en­cour­age this.

Choose times dur­ing the day when she is in a calm, happy state. Adopt a po­si­tion at her eye level, watch her with a warm smile on your face and make sooth­ing, en­tic­ing sounds and ges­tures.

Im­i­tate ev­ery­thing she does or ut­ters ex­actly, but us­ing big­ger ges­tures, fa­cial ex­pres­sions and more ex­treme vari­a­tion of tone and vol­ume of voice. Wait for her re­sponses, be­fore im­i­tat­ing her again, keep­ing up the “con­ver­sa­tion”.

More con­cern­ing than your daugh­ter’s lack of words is the de­lay in bab­bling and vo­cal­i­sa­tions. Chil­dren who have had ear in­fec­tions are sus­cep­ti­ble to hear­ing loss, so it is rec­om­mended that this is checked out be­fore you go any fur­ther.

With­out the abil­ity to hear, lan­guage will not de­velop. You can do a sim­ple test by ring­ing a bell on ei­ther side of her head to see if she turns to the sound. If you are still un­sure, a hear­ing test by an au­di­ol­o­gist would help put your mind at rest.

If she gets the all clear, it is prob­a­bly time to con­sult an oc­cu­pa­tional or speech and lan­guage ther­a­pist to dis­cuss your con­cerns.

Kerry Wal­lace Oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist

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