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Could My Baby Have a Speech Issue?

Should your baby be saying more than “goo-goo ga-ga?”

We talked to Jaye Wike, Speech Language Pathologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, about baby and toddler communication. He shared some key milestones to look for and signs of possible speech issues.

What is the normal age range for children to begin communicating through speech?

• Children often begin using single words at 12 months old.
• By 18 months, children can have 10 to 20 single words in their vocabulary.
• By 24 months, children can have 200 or more single words and will begin to put two-word combinations together.
• Early developing letter sounds that children use between 1 and 2 years of age include p, b, m, t, h and w.

What signs may indicate a child needs help with his or her speech?

Since communication development begins in infancy, there are developmental patterns that occur in the first 12 months that parents should watch for. In the first 3 months infants coo, while babies between 4 to 6 months engage in vocal play and babble sounds.

From 7 months to 1 year, babbling consonant vowel combinations occur, with an increasing variety of consonant sounds. They use intonation, and these sound combinations begin to sound similar to familiar words.

After 12 months of age, signs that may indicate the need for help with speech include no single words between 12 to 15 months or less than 10 to 20 single words by 18 months. Words should include both consonants and vowels. If a 24-month-old child uses less than 50 single words and is not beginning to put two-word combinations together, parents may want to seek advice.

When should parents consult their child’s pediatrician or a speech language pathologist?

Contact your pediatrician if the above signs are not seen, but remember that all children develop at their own pace.

If these skills are not yet emerging, your pediatrician may refer your child for a full evaluation with a speech language pathologist. Along with speech, your child’s understanding and use of language will be screened. For example, at 12 months, your child should be pointing to objects you name, making gestures, and recognizing his or her name. By 18 months to 20 months, your child should also be following simple directions.

Learn more about hearing, speech and learning services at Children’s Colorado.

Mama Drama: Articulation Angst

Dear Mama Drama:

My 4-year-old son has an extensive vocabulary but like a lot of kids, has a difficult time saying his “R”s and “L”s. When should I start worrying about getting him in speech and what can I be doing with him now?

~ Concerned Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Concerned:

While I’ve worked with children of all ages and a wide range of special needs, I am not a speech expert. To make sure you get the best information I consulted with Deb Trench and Ashley Neff, Early Childhood Speech Language Pathologists in Aurora Public Schools.

Articulation guidelines indicate that the ability to clearly articulate the /r/ sound should be developed by the age of 8. Children should be able to use /l/ sounds consistently around five or six, with boys often being on the later end. Since your son is well below these ages you won’t need to worry just yet. However, there are several things you can do to support his development of these sounds.

Play with language: Make up silly alliterations and rhymes that use these sounds. Work together to see how many words you can think of that start with specific letter sounds – include the ones he is struggling with, but expand beyond that as well. Search out items in your environment that start with specific letters – a letter specific version of I Spy. These are great activities to do while riding in the car or waiting in line.

Correct through restatement: When your son mispronounces these sounds, repeat what he has said emphasizing the correct pronunciation without necessarily correcting him. “You’re right, that is a big LLLion.” “You want the RRRed shirt?”

Read aloud: When reading aloud remember to read the words as well as talk about the pictures together. Here are a few suggestions of books that emphasize the letters /r/ and /l/. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber, London Bridge is Falling Down by Peter Spier, Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer, Red is Best by Kathy Stinson,  Rosie’s Roses by Pamela Duncan Edwards, and Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos. You can browse the library or bookstore for more books focusing on these letter sounds.

Talk with your child: Frequently conversations with your child will support both his articulation and his continued language development.

Remember that articulation involves initial, ending, medial (middle) and blended sounds. Initial sounds generally come first.

If you continue to feel worried or have any other developmental concerns please seek further evaluation for your child. Early intervention is very effective and sets the stage for academic and social success. For children under the age of five, contact your local school district and ask for their Child Find evaluation team. Consult with your classroom teacher about a referral for an evaluation for school-age children. You can also consult your pediatrician or a private speech language therapist.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.