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How to help babies Speech and Language Development-0-6months

Updated on February 22, 2013

Article one in a series-please refer to others .

This is the first article in a series-Please refer to other age ranges and advise given. I will be adding more regularly.


What you need to know and do.

I want to get the information I have gained from my thirty years experience as a Speech and Language therapist as well as a mother out to parents and prospective parents.

We are in the decade of cutting back on services like Speech and Language Therapy, and families may no longer get access to advise easily or early enough.I want to get some basic information out there to parents so you can be reassured that you are giving your child the best possible start in learning Speech and Language.

How do children learn to talk?

Most children learn to talk in a natural and seemingly effortless way-yet it is probably the most complex and important skill they will ever master.It is only when it doesn't happen naturally that we realize what a miracle it is.

Lets break it down into its two most basic components-"Language" and "Speech"

What is Speech ?

Speech is the bit we hear-the message -it involves the co-ordination of all the muscles used in breathing,with the voice producing mechanism -the vocal cords, and the muscles in the mouth and throat -particularly the tongue.

But before a child utters his/her first word s/he has to learn "language"

How does a baby learn language?

S/he has to be able to take in information through the senses-listen attentively and understand what is being said(receptive language) and then learn how to formulate it her/himself,and express it(expressive language).

Parents play a unique role in their children's speech and language development.The babies world revolves around his parents.How to make the most out of the natural interactions between parent and baby is not normally covered in "baby school" I intend to give fun, practical suggestions and some insights into what is going on for the baby/child.I will also give some signs that can be an early warning system that not all is as it should be, and when to seek help.

So how does Speech and Language develop?

The development of language is a truly remarkable acomplishment.It starts pretty much from the day a baby is born, and the early interactions between parent and baby set the foundations for an amazing journey.

Newborn to 6 months.

A newborn infant will respond to sound.Babies are startled by loud noises and a baby will respond to his mothers voice by becoming quiet.

In the first few weeks of life a baby learns the difference between a happy voice and an angry voice.Already the baby is beginning to attach meaning to sound.

Crying is the newborns only means of communicating.His efforts at communicating are usually reinforced when he is picked up, fed, changed and given attention.

Many mothers will say that they can tell what the baby needs by his cry as he has a different cry for different needs. He is now learning that he can use his voice to control adults and how to become a conversation partner.Eye contact and turn taking which are basic skills for communicating begin here.

Feeding and nappy changing times can be used to develop these skills.

When a parent is feeding he gazes at the child-baby is sucking and gazing back-eye contact is being established.

When baby stops sucking parent gets active, talking and cooing to the baby-“have you had enough” have you got windies” The parent fits his behaviour to the babies –each taking turns.This communicating and turn taking is the basis of conversation and is crucial for the development of language.

Soon the baby will turn his head in the direction of your voice and stop making noises when you are talking to him. So now he is really listening to you. He does not yet understand the words but he understands the feelings!

Gradually he begins to use his voice in different ways varying his tone of voice to express different feelings and new sounds start to emerge.

He soon learns to make vowel like sounds and can build up quite a variety of sounds as he begins to use some simple consonants –so you may hear “ah” “ooh”- soon followed by “mah” “bah” which will soon develop into a string of sounds “mah mah mah” this is called cooing. It is important to realise that they do not associate any specific meaning to this yet. It is just play; it’s an expression of contentment and is most often heard in response to anothers soothing voice.

As speech demands very precise co-ordination of the tongue, jaw, lips, as well as the breathing and voice muscles -this vocal play is a very important foundation for spoken language which is now beginning to emerge.



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    • bredandagnes profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ireland

      Thank you so much.Delighted you like it-its my first attempt.I've never done anything like this before. Will add more moving up in age range -in 6 monthly stages-and give more specific ideas on how to help.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really liked this article. It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into this! I have 3 young boys and this information is important to me. Thanks again!


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