Critical speech-language development occurs in the first few months of life. Exposure to different sounds, tones and interactions builds your child’s familiarity with language. Receptive language skills, or the ability to listen and interpret language, are forming and limited to reacting to sounds and voices. Expressive language skills, or the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings through vocalizations, gestures, expressions, or signs take the form of crying and cooing at this stage.
Receptive and expressive language milestones for ages birth to six months:
(INSERT BIRTH TO 6 MONTHS SPEECH MILESTONES TABLE HERE)
Even if it seems that your child cannot understand what you are saying in the first few months of their life, any communication on your part serves in familiarizing your child with the linguistic process. Start by reinforcing your baby’s communication attempts, by making eye contact often and imitating his or her vocalizations and intonations. Take it a step further and imitate his or her laughter and facial expressions. This imitation will show your baby that you are responsive to them and encourage them to be more engaged and receptive during communication with you.
Speak to your child frequently during daily routines. For example, share with your child the “who, what, where, why and how” as you feed, dress and bathe them. Here are a few examples:
• Who? Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning: “The kitty says meow.”
• What? Identify colors: “This is a red ball”
• Where? Emphasize place as you walk with your baby, “Here is the kitchen; here is your bed; here is the floor.”
• Why? Maintain eye contact, respond to child’s speech, and imitate sounds. Use different vocal patterns and emphases such as raising the pitch of your voice to indicate a question.
• How many? Count items: “two bananas, four chairs, one table, etc”
During the first six months, you may be concerned about your child’s development because you are still learning what your child is trying to tell you through cries, laughing, waving and smiles. It can be hard for you to determine if your child is developinG appropriately. If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors, you should seek an evaluation from your child’s pediatrician or speech-language pathologist:
• No sounds (cooing)/quiet baby
• Doesn’t react to you by 4 to 6 months
• Does not respond to surroundings or sounds around him or her
• Tunes out or seems oblivious to surroundings
• Becomes over stimulated easily or cries too often
• Has difficulty sucking or swallowing
• By 4 months, he or she doesn’t imitate the sounds that you make
• By 6 months, he or she isn’t laughing or squealing