Speaking is hard work – motivate your child! Child starts to speak about the 12th month of life. At first it uses one word or often one syllable expression that is relevant to current situation (bye bye, wee) or particular person (mo mo, da da, na na) or animal sounds (like woof, meow…) or thing (neee nooh, brrrum).
These expressions are not just names they can also represent full sentences or they are relevant to situation in context where the meaning isn’t certain. When a child says “ brrum” it can mean “look I have a car” or “ I see that a car is passing” or “are we going in a car” or “ I can hear a car” or similar.
Common things in child speech are interjection words used instead of verbs. So “hop”- to jump, to throw; “hammy” – to eat, I am hungry; “bye” – see you later, to leave etc. The way we respond, repeat or finish the sentence we show positive feedback to the child. It enables it to expand its own vocabulary. A sentence will develop by linking words together like “dada brrum bye bye, momma hammy…”
Firstly a child puts words in order by their meaning and emphasis or following our example. Because it is difficult to pronounce more syllable word it adapts words to its ability and shorten them or makes own kinds. It learns to recognise words like mine, my it will see the difference between I and you. It is able to respond correctly to yes or no. The vocabulary expands due to the incentive of the environment and mutual communication. If we talk with our children a lot and encourage our child ‘talking appetite’ it will have a vocabulary of about 400 words about the 3rd year of its life. It is only for orientation, each child have different ability.
Child’s development is a complex issue. All abilities are interlinked and follow each other. Independent walking and better dexterity has effects on the progress of its brain ability and vice versa. Between the first and the second year the locomotion develops significantly. Because child is more active it expands its surrounding and have more opportunities to expand own ability.
To progress in speech it is important to have good hearing. A child has to learn to make differences between variety of sounds and pronunciation of various letters. This skill is called phonematic differentiation and it is decisive in the correct pronunciation. Any kind of hearing impediment gives child a disadvantage. The development of a speech with hearing defect is impaired and it needs specialised care from early stages of life.
Also sight can affect the speech development. Child carefully watches our lips and tries to imitate the movement in pronunciation. It is important for a child not just hearing but also seeing their opponent. Between the second and the third year of life a child is equipped enough to progress well in correct forms and content. Vocabulary is active and passive according to experience and impulses from its environment and it expands and develops progressively. The child practices the pronunciation of syllables from our phonematic system. Three year old is able to use speech as a communication tool, for covering its needs, to fit in its surrounding and of course to please its ancestors. The communication is for the child a necessity but also for fun and entertainment.
Each child is unique and it carries specific equipment of abilities. It is surrounded by loved ones with similar manners. That is why the development of each child carries the specific marks typical for its family that differ from others. Development of a child is subtle and continuous. Each child progresses in its abilities systematically step by step. Some children’s development can progress in leaps. A period of fast learning can be suddenly changed to a period of stagnation. But the development happens no matter what; it is harmonic and direct in all areas. Third group of children whose development is uneven, for example a child is more mature in some areas but slower in others, special care should be taken to “tune up” the complexity of their development.
There could be many causes to the child’s speech development. If a child is healthy, its normal phycho-locomtive development is without deviation and has the right surrounding for speech development, and does not start speaking about the age of three we call this the extended physiological taciturn. It shouldn’t lead to worries. This kind of child just needs all-round careful lead including support in its communication ability. It has a very good chance to catch up and fit in among its peers.
Parents’ attitude and encouragement largely contributes to child’s speech development and its form and content. You cannot separate them. Taking up correct pronunciation of syllables requires manifold repetition of particular syllable in variety of words. It has to practice it in many situations as well as it has to have the opportunity and has to know how. It uses its senses and our willingness to repeat it many times. It is of course time and patience consuming process. In the first year of life child need to strengthen its emotional attachment, feel secure and parent should take the activity in hand. In the second year we aim to teach a child to use communication tools to be able to covet its needs.
Several principles to follow:
- We should always speak to a child in correct form of a word, don’t use ‘baby talk’.
- Pace of speech should be calm and understandable.
- Modulate with emphasis but don’t over-do it.
- Repeat child’s words in correct pronunciation and don’t pick on wrong-doing.
- Let child watch your face when you are speaking.
- Alternate activities with a break, don’t over-work your child. Make sure it sleeps regularly.
- Use song, rhymes, read fairy tales or stories. Look through pop-up books. Comment on the stories or the activity which you do together. Use communication games.
- Avoid drilling. Don’t ever use: “Say it now!”. You must not force your child to speak to you. The appetite to speak to us freely is important. Use positive feedback.
Somewhere around year three children might start asking: “What is it?” and immediately following with “Why?”. The essence of these questions lies in gathering information. However we discover soon that child is asking the same things over and over even though it knows the answer. If we consider the content of our ‘dialog’ we find out that child is not seeking information but it exercises your attachment to it and your personal guard. It is showing us that it has an interest in communication with us and wants to speak to us. Sensitive and understanding parent responds to this challenge with patience, doesn’t shout at the child and encourages with the answer their child to speak. It is not always easy to answer the probing question. However if your child hears only: “ Leave me alone. Don’t ask such a silly question. What is it now?”, your child will stop asking and its communication development will come to stop. If we feel tired or are not in the mood or just had a hard day, we have the right to say just “I don’t really know” or “I will find out” or stir the conversation to something else. It will give us at least a little break. Good dialog is always two sided and child will learn this for its future life.
Even if we are caring and supporting our child in communication skills very well, it is also common, that you child is not able to say many words. It may even have some handicap in comparison to other. Around year three a child is able to actively use about 400 words (as mentioned above). Its speech is the major communication tool with its environment. It does not happen automatically. It is the result of many experiments and mistakes made while learning. Parents have the responsibility to support their child in any way possible, praise it, and motivate it. It can be impossible to judge objectively your child development by yourself. You are not able to compare and you may also be bias. If a child, at the age of three, doesn’t speak, I’d recommend visiting your local speech therapist who assesses your child and suggest further progress.
Speaking is hard work… When a child is learning to speak it becomes the busiest mentally overloaded person on the planet who, luckily, isn’t aware of it.