Speech Therapy: The Basics
While I understand the complexity of speech therapy – or not, as I don’t know a lot about speech therapy. But I do know that it is important. And so in the process of trying to understand more about it, I thought I would look into the basics of speech therapy.
What To Expect in the FIrst 12 Months.
Babies communicate with you from birth; pre speech. They do this through touch, eye contact and listening. Crying is another way babies can communicate with us.
During the first year of life, children progress through the following stages of expression.
1) Firstly they begin to cry. As mentioned above, crying is one of the earliest forms of communication. They will express different cries for different emotions; such as hunger, pain and discomfort. When parents respond to these different cries, the child learns the basis of communication. The action of crying gets a reaction.
2) The child will learn that gurgling and chuckling are happy noises – and that these get a positive response from the caregiver.
3) Cooing is developed as the child learns to make more meaningful sounds – like “ooh” “ahh” and “ee. This is usually accompanied by smiling and high pitched ‘positive’ sounds from the parent, which reinforces the sounds.
4) Children will then start to use their lips and tongue to shape babbling noises, like “ma ma ma”.
5) The next step is called ‘jargon’, which are noises that sound like strings of words, but aren’t quite there.
6) At about 12 months of age, babies will use their first word. Often, this is a word like “mum” or “dad” that they have heard a lot. However, it can also be a familiar in their world.
What can you do as a parent?
When thinking about speech and language development, there are important things you need to consider as a parent.
1) Be sure to check your child’s hearing. It is extremely important, vital even, that your child’s hearing mechanism is in perfect order. This can now be done from the very early ages due to advanced audiological technology.
If your child can’t hear speech, how will they be able to use it?
2) Keep talking to your child! Even in the first few months its important to talk to your child. Expose them to the use of language from an early age. Refer to objects around them, and the here and now. You just need to use simple words and sentences, nothing too complicated, but this will help your child understand language more easily. This is increased through repetition of familiar words and sounds.
3) Maintain eye contact with your child. You can even make this into a game – look at your child, make eye contact and take turns to make their noises and sounds in a baby-like conversation.
Eye contact is a very important part speech – if you don’t look at the person you’re talking to it is hard for them to know you are talking to them. Eye contact is important for communication.
4) Reinforce your child’s efforts with rewards! Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to teach behaviour to children, and once they realise they are gaining a favourable reaction from you they will be more likely to repeat. You can do this for pre-speech children using lots of smiles, clapping, laughing, and even saying “good boy/girl”.
Parents and caregivers play the most important role in the development of speech and communication. However, when a child is not yet verbal by 18 months, an assessment by a speech therapist/pathologist may be helpful.
Written by: Philippa Berry