Speech & Language Development

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Steps into Motion

The Process of Developmental Stages

Understanding the progression of speech and language development is essential for therapists and caregivers to establish realistic goals for children. Although this process may not always follow a linear trajectory, having knowledge of the typical order in which skills are acquired can help in assessing a child’s current abilities. It enables professionals to tailor interventions and support to meet the individual needs of the child effectively.

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1) Pre-Verbal Communication

Pre-verbal communication skills are crucial for a child’s ability to communicate effectively with others without relying on spoken words. These skills serve as the building blocks for their future speech and language development. By engaging in activities such as making eye contact, using gestures, sharing attention on a common object, and taking turns in communication, children are able to establish a strong foundation for their linguistic skills.

By engaging in a variety of pre-verbal communication activities, children are able to practice and refine the fundamental skills necessary for effective communication. Through consistent interaction and exposure to different forms of communication, children can gradually enhance their abilities in areas such as understanding social cues, expressing their needs and desires, and establishing meaningful connections with others. These early experiences play a significant role in shaping a child’s overall communication skills and pave the way for their future language development.

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2) Attention & Listening

Attention and listening therapy is an essential intervention for children struggling with maintaining focus and shifting attention between activities. By targeting these areas, therapy aims to improve children’s ability to concentrate on tasks for extended periods, enhancing their overall attention span and concentration levels. Developing these skills at a young age can have long-term benefits in academic performance, social interactions, and daily activities, setting children up for success in various aspects of their lives.

Additionally, attention and listening therapy also emphasizes the importance of joint attention, as it plays a significant role in communication and social engagement. By fostering joint attention skills, children learn to effectively share attention with others, actively listening and engaging in collaborative activities. This ability not only enhances their communication skills but also prepares them for success in school environments where cooperation, listening, and effective communication are essential for academic achievement and social development.

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3) Play

For a long time, it has been recognized that children learn language through play. As Speech Language Pathologists, we incorporate this concept into our therapy sessions with many of our young clients. We often engage in imaginative play on the floor with our littlest clients, as this is a highly effective method for promoting speech and language development, as well as other important skills.

By observing a child’s play abilities, we can gain valuable insights into their language development. As play is closely linked to language development in children, it is crucial to pay attention to their play skills. To do this effectively, it is essential to understand the expected milestones and stages of play as children grow and mature.

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4) Understanding

Understanding spoken language is essential for children to successfully navigate a variety of tasks, such as following instructions, answering questions, comprehending stories, and identifying objects and pictures. These skills are crucial for their overall development and success in various learning environments. It is worth noting that a child’s ability to understand spoken language typically precedes their ability to effectively communicate using language.

We employ a range of techniques to train children in understanding language, beginning with assessing their current comprehension skills and targeting areas for improvement. Through modeling, repetition, and interactive activities, they guide children in practicing new vocabulary and sentence structures while making learning enjoyable. Whether working in small groups or one-on-one sessions, these individuals offer individualized support to help children develop strong language comprehension and communication skills, equipping them for successful language development.

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5) Talking

Talking, also referred to as ‘expressive language,’ is crucial for a child’s development as it involves learning new words and forming sentences. Through language, children communicate thoughts, emotions, and needs, and engage in social interactions using verbal and non-verbal cues like gestures and facial expressions.

As children advance in their development, they expand their vocabulary and construct more complex sentences, enhancing cognitive and social skills. While age-based milestones offer a rough guideline, each child develops uniquely, influenced by various factors. Comparing a child’s language skills to others can be unproductive. Celebrating each child’s individual linguistic journey creates a supportive environment for their growth and development.

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6) Pragmatic

Pragmatics is more than just the intentional use of language to communicate with others. It involves coordinating linguistic information with nonverbal cues such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language. It also requires taking into account the social, physical, and emotional context of a conversation to determine what to say, how to say it, and understand the meaning behind others’ words. In addition, pragmatics involves integrating current conversation with past experiences and knowledge.

Children develop these communication skills even before they fully acquire language, relying on nonverbal cues and situational context. To become proficient in pragmatics, individuals need memory skills, a deep understanding of social and physical environments, and the ability to process information from various sources and plan goal-oriented actions.

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7) Speech, Sound

Typically, children’s speech development tends to follow a common pattern. It is not uncommon for children to substitute harder sounds with easier ones, such as saying ‘tar’ instead of ‘car’ or ‘poon’ instead of ‘spoon.’ However, some children may experience delays or abnormalities in their speech sound development. For instance, saying ‘har’ instead of ‘car’ or ‘oo’ instead of ‘spoon,’ or ‘ay-ee’ for ‘baby.’ These children may require additional support to improve their speech sounds.

In order to address these challenges, there are various stages involved in this process. These stages include both listening to and producing speech sounds, as well as practicing correct articulation techniques. It is crucial for the child to feel confident at each stage before progressing to the next, as building a strong foundation is key to successful speech sound development. Additional support from speech therapists or educators may be necessary to help children overcome any difficulties and reach their full potential in communication.

Journey of Speech Development

Age-Expected Pronunciation Milestones for English Sounds in Children

Below are age expectations for the correct pronunciation of English sounds by children. It is normal for there to be some variability in your child’s pronunciation, as each child learns at their own pace. However, you can generally expect your child to follow the patterns outlined below when learning new sounds. Most consonant sounds should be mastered by the age of 5.

Speech Sounds for Toddlers: Consonant Articulation at Ages 2 and 3

Children between the ages of two and three often have unclear speech as they are still developing their communication skills. Typically, a two-year-old’s speech is understood about 50% of the time, while a three-year-old’s speech is understood between 50-75% of the time. It is also important to consider what children in this age group should be able to say. On average, children between the ages of two and three can correctly pronounce 13 different consonant sounds.

Sounds that a toddler should be able to say

P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y

Consonant sounds not listed above may be pronounced incorrectly.

For instance, a child in this age group might say “tat” instead of “cat”, mispronouncing the C/K sound but pronouncing the T sound correctly. This is a common occurrence as children are still developing their speech and phonetic skills during this stage. It’s important for parents and caregivers to encourage and model correct pronunciation while also being patient and understanding of the child’s language development process.

Sounds a four-year-old can say

A four-year-old should be able to correctly pronounce and be understood when saying the following consonant sounds:

P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y, L, J, CH, S, V, SH, Z.

However, it is possible for mispronunciations to occur at this age. For example, a four-year-old may say wabbit instead of rabbit, which is developmentally appropriate.
Speech Development in 5- and 6-Year-Olds

At age five, children should be understood 100% of the time. Additionally, mispronunciations become less and less common. When children are five, they are expected to say an additional three consonant sounds correctly. These sounds are: R, ZH (e.g. the second ā€œgā€ in garage), voiced TH (e.g. these).

At age six, children have one sound left to master, which is the voiceless TH (e.g., thumb).

What steps should I take if my child's speech development is delayed?

If your child’s speech sounds are not developing according to the recommended guidelines, it is important to have them evaluated by a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP). At Miracles in Motion, we will assess your child’s speech to determine if it is developing as expected and whether speech therapy may be necessary. Additionally, the evaluation can help identify any underlying issues that may be affecting your child’s speech and provide recommendations for practicing speech skills at home.

By getting a speech evaluation, you can ensure that your child’s speech development is on track and address any concerns early on. We will be able to provide guidance on how to support your child’s speech development and offer strategies for improving their communication skills. With the help of a professional evaluation, you can take proactive steps to address any speech difficulties and help your child communicate effectively.