Your child’s language: tips and strategies to support its development!

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Your child’s language: tips and strategies to support its development!

As parents, it isn’t always easy to be sure whether our children are meeting the expected language milestones.  It can be even harder to know what to do if we do notice signs of a language delay.  If you’ve ever felt this way, the following information should be helpful!

The signs of a language delay

Here are a few things to watch for that might indicate delays in language development, at different ages:

6 to 12 months:

  • Poor eye contact
  • Limited babbling (e.g. makes only vowel sounds)

12 to 18 months:

  • Does not respond to his/her name
  • Rarely or never imitates adults (e.g. does not imitate social routines such as “bye-bye”)

18 to 24 months:

  • Has not yet produced first words
  • Has difficulty understanding simple instructions and basic questions (e.g. where, what, who)

2 to 3 years:

  • Produces few words (fewer than 50 at age 2) and/or speaks only in single words
  • Has difficulty asking simple questions (e.g. where?)

3 to 4 years:

  • Makes only short 2-3 word utterances (e.g. “want milk”)
  • Has difficulty being understood by unfamiliar people

4 to 5 years:

  • Has difficulty understanding more complex questions (e.g. why)
  • Speaks only in short, simple phrases of 3-4 words

Winning strategies for developing language!

If you’ve noticed that your child is having difficulties with language, there are things you can do to help!  Here are a few ways to support your child’s language development and help him/her to progress:

  • Model complete and correct sentences whenever you speak with your child.
  • Expand your child’s utterances by adding elements.  For example, if he/she says “Train, choo-choo!” you could say “Yes, the yellow train goes choo-choo!”
  • Name things that your child sees and does in everyday life (e.g. at the park, the store, at home or around the neighbourhood). *Be careful!  Avoid overusing the question “What’s that?”  Your child needs to hear a word before being able to use it him- or herself!
  • Recast your child’s errors by reformulating the word or sentence that was produced incorrectly, with an accent on the correction.   Get down to your child’s level so that he/she can see your mouth.  For example, if your child says “a goggie!” you would say, “yes, a Doggie!” *Be careful!  Give the model, but avoid insisting that your child repeat your correction. Insisting on repetition can reduce a child’s willingness and desire to express him- or herself.
  • Give a choice of answers to help your child understand questions.  For example, you could ask, “Where does the cow live?  On the farm or in a house?”

These strategies can be applied to all kinds of everyday activities, such as shared reading, playing with dolls or cars, doing puzzles, cooking, etc. Communication should be a pleasure!  Keep things enjoyable, follow your child’s lead, and, above all, have fun!

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