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Date: Jun 11, 2009
Early Signs of Speech Delays: Hofstra's Speech-Language Hearing Clinic Offers Tips to Parents of Babies and Toddlers On Speech DevelopmentHofstra University, Hempstead, NY … One of the big milestones parents often anxiously await is the sound of their baby’s first words, such as “mama” or “dada.” Sometimes those first words appear later than expected, and parents are not sure when this delay is cause for concern. Denise Ruscio M.S. CCC SLP, clinical supervisor of the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at Hofstra University’s Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center, says there are many signs parents can look for that will help them determine whether or not their child’s speech-language skills are developing “on time.”
Ms. Ruscio says the ability to communicate is comprised of many components: two of which are speech and language. “Speech” refers to the sounds a child makes, and how he/she makes those sounds. Speech-language pathologists, the specialists who work with people with communication disorders, often refer to “speech” as “articulation.” “Language” refers to children’s vocabulary, their ability to combine words into phrases and sentences, and their ability to use words in conversation to get what they want. Both “speech” and “language” skills begin to develop as early as birth, and continue to develop into adolescence.
To help parents determine whether their child’s speech-language skills are emerging “on time,” the American Speech-Hearing Association (ASHA) produced “How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?” and based on that publication the following developmental milestones can be expected from birth through age four:
Birth to 3 months: Baby makes pleasure sounds such as cooing, cries differently for different needs, smiles when sees parent/caregiver.
4 to 6 months: Baby makes babbling sounds that are “speech-like”, makes “p”, “b”, and “m” sounds, vocalizes excitement and displeasure, makes gurgling sounds when left alone/when playing with parent
7 to 12 months: Baby’s babbling has both long and short groups of sounds, like “tata upup bibibibi”, uses sounds to get and keep attention, imitates different speech sounds. Baby has 1-2 words (“bye-bye, dada, mama - although they may not be clear. Baby recognizes words for common items like “cup,” “juice” and begins to respond to requests (“come here.”)
1 to 2 years: Baby says more words every month, uses some 1-2 word questions (“where kitty?”) and 1-2 word phrases (“more cookie”). Baby uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words, points to a few body parts/pictures in a book, follows simple commands, such as “roll the ball.”
2 to 3 years: Baby uses 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things and often asks for objects by naming them. Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time. Baby understands differences in meaning (“go-stop,” “big-little”), and follows two-step requests (“Get the book and put it on the table.”).
3 to 4 years: People outside family usually understand child’s speech. Child talks to others about activities that occurred at school or at friend’s house, uses sentences that have four or more words and usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words. Child answers simple “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why” questions.
If a parent suspects, or is concerned about their child having a language delay, a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist should be contacted to schedule a Speech-Language Evaluation. In addition, parents should also consider getting a hearing evaluation (“Audiologic Evaluation”) to confirm that their child’s ability to hear is not contributing to a communication delay.
Parents can locate speech pathologists and audiologists in their area through a variety of sources, including their pediatrician, their state’s Department of Health Early Intervention Program, or by accessing ASHA’s Web site at www.ASHA.org. Once the speech-language evaluation is conducted, the speech pathologist will determine whether or not to recommend intervention (speech-language therapy). During speech therapy, goals are established, based on each child’s specific communication delay. Specific strategies/techniques are used to address the child’s deficits. Speech-language therapy can be provided both on an individual and/or group basis.
At Hofstra University’s Saltzman Community Services Center Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, clinicians provide both individual and group speech therapy to children identified as having a communication delay. The “Speaking of Toddlers” language stimulation group meets once weekly, and focuses on improving the social language skills of the toddlers attending the group. Through developmentally appropriate play, crafts/snacks/story time, children develop their ability to communicate with their peers using expanded language skills. In addition, parents attending this group also participate in weekly parent training sessions, in which clinicians teach them how to implement a variety of language facilitation strategies to use at home with their children.
For additional information regarding “ages and stages,” referral sources, and information on communication delays in children, parents are encouraged to contact ASHA at www.ASHA.org.
For additional information on the "Speaking of Toddlers" group and other services offered by Hofstra's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic call (516) 463-5656 or visit www.hofstra.edu/saltzmancenter.