Communicating with your child is important as it helps with their learning development and growth. Communication would involve using speech and non-verbal cues, however, there are children who experience speech delays. With that in mind, we at Pulse Center Therapy and Learning Center in Dubai offer speech therapy services for children with special needs. To begin with, it’s essential to recognise speech delays among children. Developmental norms may provide clues:

Before 12 Months

It’s important for parents to be aware with children this age for signs that they’re using their voices to communicate to their environment. Cooing and babbling are early stages of speech development. As babies get older (around 9 months), they start to connect sounds together, while using the different tones of speech and say words such as “mama” and “dada” (even without understanding the meaning of the words).

Before reaching 12 months, babies also should be observant to sound and begin to recognise the names of common objects that surround them every day. Children who watch intently but don’t react to sound may be showing signs of hearing loss.

By 12 to 15 Months

Children this age should have a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling (like p, b, m, d, or n), start to mimic sounds and words from family members, and typically say one or more words (not including “mama” and “dada”) spontaneously. Nouns typically come first, like “baby” and “ball.” Your child also should be able to understand and follow simple one-step directions.

From 18 to 24 Months

It always depends and varies in most situations, but most toddlers speak about 20 words by 18 months and 50 or more by the time they reach 2 years. By age 2, toddlers are starting to combine two words to create simple sentences, such as “baby hungry”. A child of 2 years should be able to identify common objects (in person and in pictures), should be able to point the eyes, ears, or nose when asked, and follow two-step commands such as “Please pick up the toy and give it to me.”

From 2 to 3 Years

At this age, parents should see improvements in their child’s speech. Your toddler’s vocabulary should increase and should habitually combine three or more words into sentences.

Comprehension also should be enhanced— by 3 years of age, a child should be able to understand what it means to “put it on the table” or “put it under the bed.” Your child also should be able to identify colours and grasp descriptive concepts such as big versus little.

What Can Parents Do?

Speech development is a combination of nature and nurture. Genes, in part, can determine intelligence including speech and language development. However, most part of it depends on the child’s environment. Is the child adequately encouraged at home or at childcare? Are there opportunities for communication and participation? What kind of feedback does the child receive?

When speech, language, hearing, or developmental concerns do exist, early intervention can help a child with special needs. Having a better understanding of speech delay in your child, you can also learn ways how to encourage speech development.

Here are a few general tips:

  • Spend a lot of time communicating with your child, even during infancy — talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.
  • Read to your child, starting as early as 6 months. It is not necessary to finish an entire book but look for age-appropriate picture books that can encourage your child to look while you identify the pictures. Try starting with a classic book or books with textures that your child can touch. After some time, allow your child to point recognisable pictures and identify them. Then move on to nursery rhymes, which have rhythmic appeal. From there, proceed to predictable books that let your child anticipate what happens next. Your little one may even start to memorise their favourite stories.
  • Use everyday situations to support your child’s speech and language. Talk to your child all throughout the day. For instance, identify grocery items at the store, explain what you’re doing as you do a household chore, point out objects around the house, or point out sounds you hear. Ask questions and acknowledge your child’s responses (even when they’re hard to understand). Keep things simple, but never communicate with “baby talk.”

Whatever your child’s age, recognising the issues and early treatment are the best approaches to help with speech and language delays. With proper speech therapy and time, your child will likely be better at communicating with you and the rest of the people around him or her.

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