The first three years of life are the most critical when it comes to speech and language development. Insufficient exposure to sounds of the environment is a major risk factor for developing delays in language skills and difficulty in learning for children. Therefore, it is critical to monitor a child’s speech milestones especially from birth to age three.
A speech milestone is a sign of normal communication that is exhibited at a particular age. Milestones can be grouped into various age ranges such as birth to three months, three to six months, three to four years, and so on. For example, a newborn’s normal communication signs or speech milestones include becoming startled by a sudden loud noise, being soothed or calmed by mother’s voice, and turning head towards voice of speaker. These milestones emerge or develop through the third month. By six months, most babies can recognize the basic sounds of their native language. Normal speech milestones for babies age 24 to 36 months include a vocabulary of about 250-1000 words and the ability to use three or more words in one sentence.
Speech milestones can be achieved in a number of ways, and in a number of orders or successions. There is no set formula for when a child must be able to exhibit a particular sign of normal communication, but there are guidelines such as speech milestones. It’s important to monitor milestones for many reasons. They help doctors and other health professionals identify whether or not a child is undergoing normal language development and how severe the delay or disorder is, if one appears. It also helps parents and medical professionals determine whether the abnormal condition is a speech disorder versus a language disorder.
A speech disorder is defined as trouble producing speech sounds correctly. Hesitating and stuttering while speaking fall under this category. A language disorder, on the other hand, is the difficulty in understanding what others say which can delay the mastery of language skills. Children who are unable to talk until age three or four exhibit a language disorder.
Checklists used by professionals to determine whether a child exhibits a speech or a language disorder can look something like:
When a parent or a medical professional identifies a delay in speech or language, the next step is to decide what type of intervention the child needs. These interventions can be as simple as a parent reading/singing to a child or as complex as a referral to a a developmental psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or other speech and development professional for a comprehensive treatment plan. With growth of medical technology, treatment plans have evolved to compose of personalized evaluations, improved diagnostic capabilities, and better ways to differentiate between speech disorders. Speech professionals are now able to conduct therapy sessions with their patients remotely by way of wireless networks and computers, something that would have been unheard of twenty years ago.
Have you ever utilized milestone checklists to gauge the language development of your child? Have you had any experience in remote speech therapy sections whether as a healthcare provider or a patient (or parent)? Describe your experiences by commenting below.
To learn more about speech milestones, please visit the following websites: