Speech development in babies and toddlers varies broadly from one child to another. Typically, girls’ speech tends to develop faster than boys’ speech. Although many parents swear that their child spoke his first words at seven or eight months, most toddlers will not begin to speak particular words until they are around a year old. By the time your child is two, she may be able to put two or three words together to form short sentences.
Of course, there are circumstances in which a child may experience developmental delays in his or her speech. In these instances, it is essential that testing be performed as soon as possible. There are certain risk factors which indicate that a child’s speech development should be closely monitored.
These include genetic abnormalities, such as Down’s Syndrome; neurological problems, such as cerebral palsy; biological conditions, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, and medical conditions, such as chronic ear infections. Children with these or similar conditions should be tested on a regular basis beginning in infancy.
One of the most common reasons for delayed speech is fluid build-up in the ear. The excess fluid can cause your child to hear distorted sounds, thus making it more difficult for her to pronounce words correctly. Your doctor may eventually put tubes in her ears. If your child does suffer from chronic ear infections, you may need to pronounce your words more slowly and clearly.
Young children’s stuttering often concerns some parents. If your child is between two and three, however, there is probably no need for you to worry. What sounds like stuttering to you may simply be your child repeating certain syllables or hesitating between syllables and/or words. As her speech becomes more developed, you should see less and less stuttering. If the stuttering doesn’t eventually become less pronounced or disappear altogether, however, you will want to consult your pediatrician.
What can you do to help develop your child’s speech? One of the simplest yet most productive steps you can is to simply read to your child. Women who are pregnant have been known to read to their child or play music close to their bellies for their infant to hear.
Once your baby is born, you can begin reading her simple stories. It doesn’t matter if she can’t understand what you are saying. She needs to hear words and sounds repeatedly so that she can begin her own rudimentary attempts at speech as she grows.
It is important that you take the time every day to read to your child. Of course, if your child is very young, she will have a short attention span, so you will need to choose books that have lots of pictures. Nursery rhymes are great for teaching new words. The sing-song sounds and rhythmic tones are wonderful speech exercises. Often, nursery rhymes, children’s songs, and poems use alliteration, which helps children master certain letters in the alphabet.
As your child grows, it is perfectly alright for you to speak in an exaggerated voice, sometimes using baby talk, when you talk to him. When you exaggerate your vowel and consonant sounds, your child may be able to repeat those sounds more easily.
Talk to your child from the time she is born or even while she is still in the womb. Talk to her about what you are doing as you clothe, bathe, and feed her. Carry her around the room or walk with her outside and point out different objects, calling them by name. Repetition is essential for her speech development.
Of course, there are many wonderful videos on the market that are both educational and fun for your child to watch. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the television should not be used as a substitute for conversation. You can use television shows and videos as teaching tools, however, if you encourage your child to interact.
You can get down on the floor with your child and sing along with the video. You can clap your hands and swing your toddler into your arms for an impromptu dance. There are so many ways to incorporate speech into your daily activity.
Your toddler’s first words are an exciting and important milestone. Keep in mind that all children develop differently, and you should not have unrealistic expectations for your child. If you are concerned or uncertain about your child’s speech development, however, you should contact your pediatrician.Your toddler’s