Language is an important skill that allows a person to communicate. A child begins to develop language even before she can use words, as seen by a baby who cries to get her needs met. A delay in language skills can cause frustration for a child as well as miscommunication about what she may be trying to convey. Language development is important to a child in order to adequately exchange information with others in a meaningful way.
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Importance of Language Skills
According to the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association, language is not the same as speech. Language consists of a set of social standards that shows comprehension of the meanings behind words, putting words together in a sentence in order to communicate and understanding commands, directions and information given by others. Children must develop language skills to relate with their parents and peers, as well as to grow into a person who can socially interact with others through life.
Hitting Specific Speech Milestones
Each child follows his own milestones for development of language, but overall he should be exhibiting certain behaviors by a specific age. By 12 months, a baby recognizes and reacts to the sound of his name and uses inflection with sounds. By 2 years, a child has a vocabulary of almost 300 words and can respond to simple commands. By 3 years, he has almost 1,000 words, 90 percent of which is understandable and can give his name and age. By 5 years, he can understand the concept of opposites and can speak in sentences of up to nine words.
A parent can encourage the development of language skills with a child by interacting regularly, singing songs and reading simple stories. As a child grows, she can talk about her day or explain her likes and dislikes. A parent can play games with a child, such as naming objects or practicing concepts of direction; for example: in, out, over and through. Visiting a library encourages reading stories, and a parent can teach a child simple stories and rhymes to encourage repetition and language.
Things to Consider
While most children follow their own timetable for developing language, there are some signs that can indicate a concern. A child between 18 and 24 months who is unable to follow very basic commands or who has trouble making vocalizations may be showing signs of a language development difficulty. For a child older than 2 years, professional help may be needed if his speech is unintelligible most of the time or if he does not try to copy sounds or gestures.
When You Need Professional Help
Parents that suspect a problem with language development in their child should contact their pediatrician. Some children have undiagnosed hearing problems that can impact language, and medical testing may be necessary. A physician can also direct parents to appropriate resources. Speech and language pathologists can assess where delays lie in expressive and receptive language and work with a child to teach him skills to communicate better.