Today’s post is about what needs to happen before a child will start talking, and ways to encourage verbal speech.
I’m sure this is no great shock to anyone, but language starts developing long before the first words are spoken.
When I worked in the preschool, they had a great handout called “Things that Need to Happen Before A Child Will Talk.” It was in THE BINDER. I got it at orientation, and it was big, thick, and alphabetized within an inch of its life. Well, I have tried every configuration of words in Google search, and I can’t find anything even close to it. Boo!
So, my little tribe, what did I do? I nearly squashed myself trying to get the box with my old schoolbooks down from the shelf in the garage. But I dug out my language development book, and ta-da! Here is my own version:
1) Mutual gaze- the fancy term for looking at each other. This leads to gaze coupling, which is alternating between making and breaking eye contact. This is important because it teaches children that eye contact is required to begin social interaction.
2) Imitation- imitating both facial and motor behaviors is important for language development because it shows they are absorbing social interactions and trying to “figure it all out.” This eventually moves into imitating vocalizations.
3) Intentionality- when a child starts doing things purposefully to get attention. Before speech, this is usually seen through gestures and specialized vocalizations (every mom knows what the “I’m hurt!” cry sounds like compared to the “I’m angry!” cry). This is the first time that the child considers his or her audience.
4) Theory of Mind- it is the concept that other people have independent thoughts and feelings. I’ll try to explain this at the infant/toddler level, because it’s a bit messy. Imagine you are an 18-month old toddler. If you don’t have at least the beginnings of theory of mind, you automatically assume that other people are hungry because you are hungry. If you do have ToM, you (subconsciously) know you need to let others know you are hungry.
5) Babbling- this goes back to imitation, but adds vocalizations. It is very rare that a child will speak before they babble (although I’m not claiming it never happens).
While this is not a comprehensive list, it does list the main pre-verbal milestones. I hope it helps to see where your child is, and what to work on.
So, we’ve talked about what needs to happen before speech, but now I want to give you a great reference for ways to get children to talk! Sometimes it seems like your child is doing all these things, they should be talking, but they just aren’t. And from both a speech therapist and a parent perspective, it is so frustrating!
Well, don’t despair. The Hanen Centre puts out an incredible freebie that gives 10 great ideas to encourage speech in young children. Here is the link:
You just give your first name and email, and it is delivered straight to your inbox. These tips are seriously so awesome, and I don’t want to copy anything.
And along the lines of not copying anything, the textbook I referred to was Language Development: An Introduction, by Robert E. Owens, Jr., 8th edition. I am already having horrible flashbacks to my thesis so I’m taking a stand and most definitely not putting this citation in APA form.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them!