- Starts from birth. Babies have a drive to interact with their environment and crucially with us! Whatever a child hears/sees/does helps them make sense of the world.
- They enjoy being together, and desire to understand one another.
- Many early communication skills are non-verbal – very young babies will take turns in an interaction with smiles, movements etc
- Above all else a child needs to become motivated to communicate – will learn that their actions can make something change.
Attention and listening
- Develops alongside other skills. Without this, the child will not be able to match the language he hears to what he is doing.
- Fleeting at first, single channelled on own choice of activity.
- Then can focus on an activity and then on you and then back to the activity.
- By school, they should be able to listen while continuing an activity.
- Background noise can affect how well children can attend – especially if the task is demanding – e.g. when driving in the city, I switch my music off so I can concentrate better. Have you ever said, “turn that off, I can’t hear myself think!”
- Is the way the child learns about the world around them.
- Children need to have a variety of experiences to help them acquire language for thinking, learning and communicating. E.g. people play, cause/effect, construction, pretend, outside/physical, songs and stories, messy/craft etc
- Pretend-play is particularly important. The symbolic nature of play is linked to the development of symbolic thinking which is essential for language development. Many children with language difficulties have problems with pretend-play. Children re-create what they experience through their play e.g. making a cup of tea; they learn a toy cup stands for/represents a real cup.
- Turn taking is an important skill for having balance successful conversations and is first learnt through play
- Is often over-estimated by parents/carers. This is because a child can follow instructions using non-verbal understanding, e.g. facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, following cues from the situation or routine, or copying others. But they might not actually be able to understand all the words.
- Children need to understand a word before they can say it with true meaning. g. think about being in a foreign country – you probably understood much more than you could ever say!
Talking is the child’s own use of words and sentences. Before talking, the child will express himself through non-verbal communication e.g. cooing, babbling, facial expressions, pointing, and gesture.
First words around a year, joining words together into phrases and short sentences once they have 50-100 words
Children need a variety of words – nouns, verbs, adjectives - before can make a sentence.
Vocabulary size can be a predictor of later success and children learn words faster if their parents talk to them, read to them, and sing to them all through the day.
Speech Sounds = Pronunciation
- the ‘icing on the cake’. It is the area of language that is most conspicuous, but the foundations must be in place before this is targeted.
- Speech sounds also develop in stages.
- Generally a 3-4 year old should be intelligible but it can take until 7 years to have a complete sound system.
The stages of the language tower are inter-dependent and each stage continues to develop as the child moves up to the next level making the tower stable and strong.
If a child’s interaction, attention or understanding is weak then can’t build a very strong or tall tower or they may have a wobbly tower that falls down!
If a child isn’t talking, it may be because one of the lower bricks isn’t well enough developed to allow the talking brick to be added.
If you require this information in a community language or alternative format e.g. Braille, audio, large print, BSL, Easy Read please contact the Equality and Human Rights Team at: email: fife.EqualityandHumanRights@nhs.scot or phone 01592 729130. For people with a hearing or verbal impairment you can also contact the team via the NHS Fife SMS text service number on 07805800005.
You can also find health related information on many topics in an Easy Read format on nhsinform.scot.