A few weeks ago I received an email from a very worried Momma. She was worried that her son was not reaching his speech milestones. This got me thinking, and kind of put me in a state of panic. I have always said that each child develops at his or her own pace, and that one should just be patient. If you are like me, “control freak” and set in your ways, everything has to happen as per research studies. I started to let go of this mindset very early on in my parenting approach, because I want Hudson, to find himself and most importantly be who he wants to be. Hudson’s first word was Mamma, a delight to my heart. He was about 13 months when he started communicating. We thought of doing sign language with him, but to be honest it just felt like so much work, and I did not always have the time to do it. By 16 months; he started saying, Dada. That is where it stopped. He would mumble in his own language, but no distinct words. Upon seeing his paediatrician, whom also affirmed that kids develop differently and not at the same pace, but that there are certain things one can do to help them along. I did some research and through discussions with a very good friend of mine and some guidance from Deidré Stroebel – Audiologist & Speech Pathologist, I have compiled the following:
1-2 year old child – typical speech and language development
- Uses one-word utterances with meaning
- Some echolalia (repetitions of a word or phrase)
- Much jargon /babbling with emotional content.
Vocabulary consists of the following number of words:
- 12 months – 1-5 words
- 18 months – 20 words
- 24 months – 50 words
- Understand simple instructions/commands. For example bringing objects from another room when asked or giving toys when asked.
- Makes familiar animal sounds.
- Responds to commands such as “Show me your eyes / nose/ mouth”.
- Understands “no”.
- Combines 2 words such as “daddy gone” or “more water”.
- Imitates sounds and words easily.
Activities to help stimulate your 12-18 month old’s speech and language development
- Read books – I find that books with colourful big pictures interests Hudson a lot. I almost never read the printed words, but make up my own story as I point to the pictures on the page. It is also a great idea to encourage your little one to “read” with you. For example, when reading a story about animals, you can say,” a cat goes …..” and they fill in the blanks.
- Be a good speech model for your child. No, this does not mean that you need to speak in a monotone voice, but that you clearly pronounce the words, and very importantly avoid baby talk.
- Help your child to learn new words. This is also a suggestion that our paediatrician gave us. Introduce your child to everything that he or she sees; or to what you are doing.
- Repeat a word over and over. Repetition is key, and it has really worked for us to increase Hudson’s vocabulary. Make sure that you use gestures and words that are useful.
- Praise your child. Hudson absolutely loves when we clap hands, when he has done something well.
Activities to stimulate your 18-24 month old’s speech and language development
- Continue to read books everyday.
- Prolong sounds in words.
- Try to expand on what your child says.
- Help your child identify sounds. Sound in and around the house.
- Let your child help you as you work. Hudson loves to help, especially packing away his toys and then taking the same bag of blocks and throwing it out again.
- Describe what you are doing, planning and thinking. I try and involve Hudson in everything that I do, especially when I prepare supper in the evenings.
- You can start to put more emphasis on verbs and nouns. At this age two word combinations should occur.
When to be concerned
According to Deidré Stroebel, if you have used the above activities for 3 months and your child has still not achieved the above mentioned milestones, a formal speech-language assessment with a Speech-Language Pathologist is required.
In closing, Hudson’s teacher also told me that if a child has an older sibling, they also learn to communicate much faster. I can not stress enough though, that you have to be patient and know that your child will develop at his or her own pace.