By Speech Language Therapy Service, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Learning to talk is exciting. It starts right after birth. It should be fun for your child, family and friends. But it is not necessarily easy. The process of talking involves paying attention, listening, thinking, understanding, wanting and needing to speak. It also involves taking turns, as well as being able to coordinate all the right muscles, the lips, jaw and tongue to move in the correct way in order to make words.
Children learn to talk at different ages. Generally, however, most children have their first word by 15 months. The purpose of verbal communication is to produce sounds and words to satisfy one’s needs. The first words of a child usually serve to call the people he/she needs (e.g., ‘mama’, ‘papa’).
Children need to be encouraged to talk in the same way as they are encouraged to walk. It is important to be responsive whenever children try to communicate and make it easy for them to start the conversation. Children go through the process to articulate speech sounds accurately as they grow. By 4 years of age, parents should be able to understand everything that their child says, although they may still have difficulties with a few speech sounds. Till the age of four, children are still in the process of learning to articulate speech sounds accurately. And remember, children can understand what is being said long before they can use the words themselves.
The following are some ways in which you can help your child learn to talk. Be patient. The process is gradual and may seem slow. Words may be unclear and your child may stumble or hesitate.
Listen to what your child has to say. Respond in a positive manner toyour child when they attempt to communicate using gestures, sounds or words.
Every child develops at his/her own pace. Speak to your paediatrician if you are concerned regarding your child’s speech and language development. Referral to a speech therapist will be made if necessary.
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