as a speech-language pathologist (slp), i love talking about language development. helping mommies and daddies hear what their child has to say is my passion! so, in the hopes of helping you to hear more of your child’s story, here are my two most frequently asked questions (and answers!).
1) should i be worried about my child’s speech?
well, in general your child should be using a word or two at one year, using two-word phrases at two years, using three-word phrases by three years, and so on with phrase length coordinating with age through preschool. also, there are broad guidelines suggesting most listeners should understand what your child says about 70% of the time at two years, 80% at three years, and 90% by four years.
but there’s so much more. there’s also what your child should understand, how his play should develop and how he uses his language socially to interact with others. see, speech and language development are actually a very complex thing. it’s not so easy to boil them down to a quick checklist. the good news is that as a parent you interact with your child a lot and over time you naturally begin to pick up on many of those complexities in language, so forget the guidelines and go with your gut.
if you have concerns, don’t wait.
some pediatricians still favor the wait and see approach, and even some family members can make you feel like you’re over-reacting, but i tell parents over and over to trust their instincts. the thing about language development is that a great deal of it actually happens early on and the sooner you address any concerns the less they will impact your child long-term. so if you’re not sure, have your child assessed.
you can find an slp to assess your child by contacting your local school district. if your child is not yet school age, the school can direct you to the appropriate early intervention program for your state. assessments done by the public schools or by early intervention programs are typically free. or if you’d prefer, you can also ask your pediatrician for a referral to an slp working in a hospital or private clinic. usually your child’s health insurance will cover assessments done at those locations.
2) how can i help my child’s speech and language development?
play! whether or not you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, getting down on the floor and playing with him is good. no tv show or push-button toy can replace what you can give your child because speech and language are really part of communication and communication happens between two people. so…be quiet, slow down, stop asking questions, sit down, play, watch, and listen. by quietly observing your child, you can see his interests and help him to talk about the things that motivate him. take time to connect, have fun, and communicate!
kim is a speech-language pathologist who mothers a spunky toddler, loves a great man, works with very special children and families, and blogs at little stories. you can also find her on facebook and twitter.