It can be hard to identify whether your little one is just a bit of a late talker, says a few words in a cute and funny way, or has a need that may need assessed by a speech language pathologist (SLP). Language disorders can affect vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, complexity of spoken language, concept development, reading and pragmatic (social) skills. That’s why they’re so important to address early on. The brain becomes less “plastic” (meaning it is harder to learn new things) after age seven, so early intervention is a key. As an SLP, I can offer you a little advice.
I have a great rule of thumb to help you identify an articulation or speech sound problem. At two years old, your child should be 50% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener. This means that someone who doesn’t hear your child talk every day like you do can easily understand half of the things they’re saying, without context. At age three, this goes up to 75% and at age 4, 100%.
Here are some other milestones to look for, from The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.
Different cries for different needs
Smiling when they see you
Babbling noises begin to sound more like speech
Vocalizing happiness and sadness
7 months-1 year
Using speech to get attention
Imitating different speech sounds
Has one or two words
If you’re concerned, talk to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist. An SLP will assess multiple areas of communication. Here’s what a she will look at:
- How is your child communicating?
- Why are they communicating?
- Are they using appropriate sentence lengths?
- Is their vocabulary growing daily and weekly?
- Can unfamiliar listeners understand what they’re saying?
- What is their non-verbal communication like?
- How are their imitation skills?
What kinds of activities can you be doing at home to encourage your little one to talk? Here are a few:
- Become your child’s narrator. Act as if you’re narrating the movie of their life. Point out everything they see, do, and every single move they make when you can. It might feel silly, but it’s so beneficial for them to hear it.
- Read every day. It seems simple, but it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to encourage your child to talk.
- Engage in vocal play with your child. When they’re very small, repeat back to them the babbling sounds that they’re making. Once they see you imitating them, it can encourage them to imitate back.
There is a broad range of normal when it comes to speech and language skills and children develop at different paces. However, it can never hurt to have an evaluation if you are concerned. For more information, give us a call or send us an email today.