From Beyond Baby Talk (October 2012) authors Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP and Julie Masterson, PhD, CCC-SLP
Beyond Baby Talk: Building a Lifelong Communicator Has Just Begun
As you wait for your baby’s first word, remember this: language is developed, not taught! In our book, Beyond Baby Talk, we relay that most infants come into the world eager, ready and able to learn language. The inner desire to communicate is there. What will you need to provide to help develop that language? You may be surprised the main tool won’t be flashcards or computer programs. It will be you. As the parent, you are the primary language role model for your child.
You may wonder when your little one will go from crying and burping to something more. Within three or four months after birth, he or she will start making vowel sounds. Listen for “coos” and “goos” to follow. You may be surprised to know those “coos” – music to parents’ ears – may actually be accidental. When infants are on their back, their tongue naturally lies back against the soft part of the roof of their mouth. An infant will have a k or g sound emerge and the result is a sound like “coo” or “goo.” Once your baby realizes he can do this on purpose, watch out! He may do it at many hours of the day and night – especially in reaction to seeing you.
Between four – six months of age, listen for some new sounds in his repertoire. He may experiment more with his mouth, tongue and throat. You may hear screeching that sounds like a cat nearby. Or he may use a t or p along with a vowel. This is your baby’s way of testing his vocal system. React to these sounds. These “conversations” will show your baby that you are interested in him and what he has to say.
What’s next? A lot! By the end of his first year, he will say his first word. From that first word and beyond, a lot of exciting developments await. In our book, we expand on these many milestones and suggest additional ways parents can model language, sharing tips and insights for the toddler years, preschool period and beyond. You have a great opportunity to help your child acquire strong language skills throughout his first eight years of life, and help him build a strong foundation for a lifetime of communication.
For now, sitting in playgroups or playing at the park, you may be tempted to compare your child with others. Which child is crawling first? Who transitioned from the bottle to sippy cup seamlessly? Who is talking? Enjoy your family’s experience, because every child is unique.
If you are concerned about one of your children’s speech and language development, though, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP). You can find one in your local area using the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s online ProSearch tool at http://www.asha.org/findpro/.