Watch children for delays in their language development

Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Communication with your child begins long before he or she speaks a single word.

A baby’s cry, smile and responses to you help you understand his or her needs.

Children develop at different rates, but they usually are able to do certain things at certain ages.

The following are general developmental milestones. Keep in mind they are only guidelines. If you have any questions about your baby’s development, ask your child’s health care giver — the sooner the better. Even when there are delays, early intervention can make a significant difference.

Most babies will do the following by 1 year old

  • Look for and be able to find where a sound is coming from.
  • Respond to their name most of the time when you call it.
  • Wave goodbye.
  • Look where you point when you say, “look at the ____.”
  • Babble with intonation (voice rises and falls as if they are speaking in sentences).
  • Take turns “talking” with you, listen and pay attention to you when you speak and resume babbling when you stop.
  • Say “dada” to dad and “mama” to mom.
  • Say at least one word.
  • Point to items they want that are out of reach or make sounds while pointing.

Most toddlers will do the following between 1 and 2 years old.

  • Follow simple commands, first when the adult speaks and gestures and later with words alone.
  • Get objects from another room when asked.
  • Point to a few body parts when asked.
  • Point to interesting objects or events to get you to look at them, too.
  • Bring things to you to show you.
  • Point to objects so you will name them.
  • Name a few common objects and pictures when asked.
  • Enjoy pretending — cooking, for example. They will use gestures and words with you or with a favorite stuffed animal or doll.
  • Learn one new word per week between 11⁄2 and 2 years old.

Delays in language are the most common types of developmental delay. One of 5 children will learn to talk or use words later than other children their age.

Some children also will show behavioral problems because they are frustrated when they can’t express what they need or want.

Sometimes delays might be a warning sign of a more serious problem that could include hearing loss, developmental delay in other areas or even an autism spectrum disorder.

Language delays in early childhood also could be a forerunner of a learning problem that might not be diagnosed until the school years.

It is important to have your child evaluated if you are concerned about your child’s language development.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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