Speech and Language Development from Birth to Twelve Months
Beth A. Simari, MA CCC-SLP/L
(Published in the New Castle News 2011 and the Mohawk Newsletter Fall/Winter 2011 edition)
What should I expect to observe from my baby during the first year of life regarding speech and language development?
During the first year of life, your baby will begin to develop communication and the foundation for all future learning. Researchers have discovered that infants as young as three days old can recognize their mothers’ voices compared to other women’s voices. Infants can also hear differences between many sounds in our language (i.e. “pa” and “ba”), although they do not yet realize that sounds are meaningful or part of their parents’ language.
By about three weeks, infants will start to smile in reaction to sights that interest them. These findings tell us that parents should talk to their babies from their first day of life. Your child is listening to the details of your voice and is learning! Vocally, within three to four months after birth, your infant will begin to make vowel sounds and cooing sounds (“coo” and “goo”).
Between four and six months, your infant will expand her repertoire of sounds. She will produce raspberry sounds and screeches, playing with her vocal system and seeing what it can do. Some other sounds such as /t/ or /p/ may emerge with a vowel sound (i.e. “ta” and “pa”). When your child produces sounds, you should repeat them back and talk to your infant (i.e. Infant: “Eeeeahhh!” Parent: “Eeeeahhh? Are your excited that I am reading to you? I am too. I love to read to you.”). “Conversations” with your infant will demonstrate to her that you are interested in her and what she has to say. Holding your baby close and about eight inches from your face will help her to focus on your face and your mouth, so that she can see how you are forming sounds and words. Your child is developing “joint attention”, which occurs when two or more individuals are focused on or observing the same object, person, or event. By four to six months, your baby will be able to follow the direction your eyes take when looking from him to an object. She will also respond to your directive to “look”.
Around six months, your infant will begin saying a series of consonants and vowels, or strings of sounds known as babbling (i.e. “ininini”, “dadada”). Consonant sounds your infant may produce are /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /m/, /n/, /w/, /k/, /g/ along with vowel sounds; these are typically the easiest consonants to say in an infant’s mouth. By the end of these six months, infants advance to “variegated babbling” which is a combination of various consonant and vowel sounds (i.e.”katipuh”, “nemabuh”). Your infant may also attempt to repeat a word you say, although she doesn’t know what it means. Encourage these vocalizations and interact with your child throughout the day (i.e. bath time, meal time, etc.). Around six or seven months, your child begins to reach for objects, and by eight months will reach for objects while looking at you to retrieve the object for her. By nine months, babies will use gestures (i.e. pointing, raising arms to be picked up) and sounds to communicate. Your baby will continue to play with the sounds of our language and may produce her first word by the end of the first 12 months. Some babies may also have 12 words in their repertoire although they may not be clear (i.e. “mama, dada, byebye”).