Child communication
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Child communication

Learning to talk is the most complex skill a young child has to master.
Mothers are usually the first to know if all is not well with their child's communication
and the right advice at the appropriate time can make all the difference.
An experienced speech and language therapist will talk through your concerns on children communication with you and suggest further avenues to pursue, if needed.

Your baby learns language in stages. From birth he receives information about language by hearing people make sounds and watching how they communicate with one another. At first he is most interested in the pitch and level of your voice. When you talk to him in a soothing way, he'll stop crying because he hears that you want to comfort him. By contrast, if you shout out in anger he probably will cry, because your voice is telling him something is wrong. By 4 months, he'll begin noticing not only the way you talk but the individual sounds you make. He'll listen to the vowels and consonants, and begin to notice the way these combine into syllables, words and sentences.

As well as receiving sounds, your baby also has been producing them from the very beginning, first in the form of cries and then as coos. At about 4 months, he'll start to babble, using many of the rhythms and characteristics of his native language. Although it may sound like gibberish, if you listen closely you'll hear him raise and drop his voice as if he were making a statement or asking a question. Encourage him by talking to him throughout the day. When he says a recognizable syllable, repeat it back to him and then say some simple words that contain that sound. For example, if his sound of the day is "bah," introduce him to "bottle," "box," "bonnet" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep."

Participating in Language Development

Your participation in your child's language development will become even more important after 6 or 7 months, when he begins actively imitating the sounds of speech. Up to that point, he might repeat one sound for a whole day or even days at a stretch before trying another. But now he'll become much more responsive to the sounds he hears you make, and he'll try to follow your lead. So introduce him to simple syllables and words like "baby," "cat," "dog," "go," "hot," "cold" and "walk," as well as "Mama" and "Dada." Although it may be as much as a year before you can interpret any of his babbling, your baby can understand many of your words well before his first birthday.

When to Call the Pediatrician for Language Development

If he doesn't babble or imitate any sounds by his seventh month, it could mean a problem with his hearing or speech development. A baby with a partial hearing loss still can be startled by loud noises or will turn his head in their direction, and he may even respond to your voice. But he will have difficulty imitating speech. If your child does not babble or produce a variety of sounds, alert your pediatrician. If he has had frequent ear infections he might have some fluid remaining in his inner ear, and this could interfere with his hearing.

A very young baby's hearing can be checked by using special equipment, but your observations are the early warning system that tells whether such testing is needed. If you suspect a problem, you might ask your pediatrician for a referral to a children's hearing specialist.

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