At birth your baby will cry, but the cry will not have specific meaning. By 2 to 3 months, babies start to develop cries that have more meaning, such as hunger or pain. They also start to coo. A 3 to 4-month old baby will start to babble randomly and by 5 to 6 months will be able to babble rhythmically. As a child gains more control of his muscles, he can make more sounds.
A baby learns to speak by listening to adults. Between 6 and 11 months your baby will be able to imitate sounds that you make. At 12 months, your baby may be able to speak 1 or 2 words.
At 18 to 24 months, children often have a talking spurt. They may quickly go from saying 5 to 10 words to more than 50 words. Children start to use single words to communicate and eventually they combine words. Usually, children understand more language than they can speak during their early years.
By age 2, children begin combining words to make short sentences. They are able to pronounce most vowels and say simple phrases. A child at this age will repeat words that they hear, start to use pronouns, and ask for common foods by name. By 3 years of age, a child will speak longer sentences and use more pronouns. They have fun with language and are able to express ideas and feelings. Strangers can understand most of their words.
At 4 years of age, children can tell stories and speak in sentences of 5 to 6 words. They ask "Why?" and "Who?" questions. The child at this age is able to describe how to do things and even define some words. Children may still have trouble saying some words, especially big words.
All children learn language slowly in the early stages, but some children continue to have problems. A problem with speech can be either a disorder or a delay.
Speech and language disorders describe children whose speech and language is not developing normally. This is the most common developmental problem in preschool children.
A speech or language delay describes a child whose skills are developing, but at a slower rate than normal.
A speech problem can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can affect your child's emotions and the way he relates to family, friends, and schoolmates. You and your healthcare provider should carefully watch your child's progress into the school-aged years.
Speech is the actual sound of spoken language. Speech is divided into three parts: articulation, voice, and fluency.
Language disorders include problems with gestures, talking, or writing, such as not being able to:
Many things can cause speech and language problems:
You may notice that your child may be learning to speak later than you expected. Or, your child's speech may be unclear. You may also notice that your child needs you to repeat directions before completing a task correctly. The earlier your child is diagnosed the better.
The following are problems to be concerned about. Call your child's provider if your child:
You should not "wait and see" if the problem will go away. You may miss many months of helpful therapy. Even infants can be helped with speech therapy
Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about symptoms. Your child will also have hearing and vision tests. Your child may be referred to a speech/language pathologist or a child development specialist.
A specialist can advise which children need treatment and which treatment is best for each child.
Language therapy is done to:
If your child cannot speak, language therapy will focus on learning to use gestures, sign language, picture boards, or an electronic device.
For more information, write or call:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852