by Dr. Kevin Benson, Board Certified in Pediatrics, ProCare Healthy Kids Clinic
As seen in the Odessa American’s Medical Matters:
One of the reasons pediatricians have you bring your babies and children in so many times during their first few years of life is to monitor their development. And the area that is both the easiest to recognize, and to miss, is speech development.
Babies should enter into the world of verbal communication early in life. They usually start life with a loud cry and things proceed from there. They respond to our voices when they are infants, even if they do not really understand what we say. Infants will start to coo in the first few months of life. At six months, they usually have a variety of sounds, especially if they get a reaction from their parents. It’s not unusual to hear a scream to get our attention. (My daughter thought a fake cough was funny.)
At nine months, you often hear some basic consonants such as “dada” and/or “mama”. However, this can be very meaningless. (Sorry “Dada”.) At a year, most children will have a meaningful dada and mama sound, as well as one other word. Unfortunately, it is often the dog’s name! Children’s receptive language usually precedes their expressive language, so they understand more than they can say back.
Speech often plateaus a bit. Then by 18 months, most children have an explosion of meaningful language. At a year and a half, most toddlers will babble out some form of about 10 to 15 words, although probably only family members will recognize their meaning.
Two-year-olds will have many words, and start to put them into two-word sentences. They will be about 50 percent understandable to strangers at that age. Three-year-olds about 75 percent understandable and 4-year-olds, you guessed it, should be 100 percent understandable to strangers. Just in time for school!
Now there is a large variety of speeds in which language develops, some children are just naturally more verbal (and no, not just the girls). It is important to recognize language issues early in life. There is a certain “developmental window” in which speech is easier to develop. (Ask anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language as an adult.) I have witnessed parents who have ignored speech issues early on, only to try and make up for that lost time in speech therapy later. Be proactive and keep your routine physical appointments, bringing up speech concerns as soon as they come to mind.