Your child depends on her communication skills to make friends and succeed at school. Good communication depends on a host of separate abilities. She learns not only what words mean, how grammar works and how to make the right speech sounds, but also the subtle meanings of facial expressions, body language, gesture and tone of voice and the unwritten social rules of carrying on a conversation.
Your child began to communicate at birth, using his cries to get your attention. A parent may be unaware that a newborn can hear, or that he can understand speech and language long before he speaks, suggests the Literary Trust. Your child learns communication skills from his caregiver during his early years. He needs to hear speech and language often during the first year of his life, while his brain cells connect at their fastest rate, and during the critical period for language learning which continues until he is 3 years old.
Your child lives in a world of technology, including television and computers. Time spent playing computer games or hours watching cartoons offer her less communication practice than individual imaginative play, reading books or singing nursery rhymes with you. Talking opportunities may be lost if family members eat separately, rather than together at a table. She watches the way you communicate, learning how to listen, take turns and continue a conversation from your example.
A hearing loss can affect your child’s communication ability, and certain developmental conditions may make it harder for him to develop good speech and language. If he has autism spectrum disorder, involving problems with social understanding, language and recognizing how people think, he can struggle with communication and will benefit from professional help to improve his skills. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can reduce his ability to listen, concentrate and remember what he hears. Genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, can also delay his speech and language development.
Many young children between the ages of 2 and 5 years repeat sounds or parts of words, or become stuck on one sound when they talk, notes the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The causes of stuttering are largely unknown and your child may learn to speak more fluently as part of her natural development. Ridiculing her speech or drawing attention to her disfluency can turn a temporary difficulty into a permanent problem.
Give your child the best possible chance of developing good communication skills by talking to him often, reading with him and enjoying songs and nursery rhymes together. Turn off the television and computers for a time every day. Avoid criticism of his abilities or pointing out mistakes. Instead, model better patterns for him by repeating any flawed words or sentences correctly. If you suspect your child has difficulty with communication, ask for advice from a speech-language pathologist.
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