While most children have reached key speech and language milestones by age 6, some kids develop problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that a child's vocabulary size and use of language is significantly influenced by family and preschool experiences. Children need daily exposure to words as well as opportunities to practice their language skills. When that doesn't happen, a child's language development can be delayed.
HealthLinkBC points out children who are regularly exposed to speech and language tend to develop language skills faster. How many words a child has in her vocabulary by age 2 depends on how much language she hears from the time she is born. While not all children develop their language skills at the same speed, the more you talk to your baby, the sooner she will learn to communicate. The American Speech-Language Association suggests talking to your infant or toddler about what you are doing and the things you see. Even while your baby works on mastering consonant and vowel sounds, you can count items, point out colors and use gestures when you talk to her. Listening to you talk will eventually help her to add words to her vocabulary and improve her pronunciation skills.
Reading to your child can help him develop speech and language skills faster than he might otherwise. You can interact with your child by reading, singing, reciting nursery rhymes and playing with him to make language familiar. The American Speech-Language Association recommends parents start reading to a child from birth. Reading to your child every day not only helps develop his speech, but also prepares him to read on his own later on.
Children with a medical problem such as epilepsy often have developmental and learning problems. According to Dr. Amy Morgan, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, about half of the children diagnosed with epilepsy have cognitive impairments that affect their speech and language, attention and memory. When seizures occur in the areas of the brain that control speech, a child can have problems recognizing speech sounds, speaking clearly, understanding what other people say or verbally expressing her thoughts.
Just because your child isn’t talking as soon as other children his age doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. However, if your child isn’t as far along in his speech development as you think he should be, have him evaluated by his pediatrician to determine if he has a speech or language delay. Health professionals look for certain developmental milestones. Your child not reaching these milestones could indicate that he is having problems understanding what he hears or expressing what he wants to say. Recognizing a problem early on and providing the appropriate intervention can help a child overcome a speech or language delay.
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