This week, Shelley, HQ at Little Signers Club and Lead Practitioner for the Early Language Development Programme (Dept of Ed / ICAN) looks at key facts surrounding communication development.
Little Signers Club uniquely focuses on how signing compliments communication development, enhances responsive interactions between small children and carers as well as increase spoken ability, impacting on self esteem and confidence.
Communication – Some Key Facts
More than 1 million children have long-term, persistent Speech, Language and Communication Needs.
Evidence shows that children’s understanding and use of vocabulary at 2 years old is very strongly associated with their performance on entering school. In some areas of the UK more than 50% of children start school without the communication skills they need. Early intervention is the most effective way to improve this outcome but something as simple and as effective as using signing as a communication bridge is often overlooked.
- 40,000 children started school in 2010 unable to communicate properly. (Libby Hill)
- Supportive early intervention is highly effective, helping improve a child’s communication potential.
- Research shows that using gesture with babies leads to better parent/child interactions and bonding, interest in language acquisition and more complex speech at an earlier age.
- Children are kinaesthetic learners; by seeing words signed in conjunction with speech, language and memory skills are enhanced and reinforced.
- Over 70% of communication is non verbal – consisting of gesture, intonation, body language and facial expression.
- Gesture is one of the building blocks of language (I CAN)
- Without the right help, children with communication difficulties are unlikely to reach their academic potential as they are unable to access the curriculum. They become isolated and frustrated, risking poor behaviour, mental health issues and offending. (I CAN)
Should you be worried?
All babies should be offered a hearing screen shortly after birth to pick up any possible abnormalities with their hearing. However, sometimes hearing issues such as glue ear are not apparent until later on in a child’s development.
These are some very quick, simple checks you can do with small children to make sure that they can hear you.
- Do they respond when you speak their name? This could be turning their head towards you, smiling, waving a hand in acknowledgement.
- Do they have a startle reflex? This could be in response to a loud unexpected noise or clapping of hands and causes a child to ‘jump’ and with younger babies they may also cry.
- Do they need to look at your face / lip pattern to understand words as you speak them? Many children do this anyway but if you have concerns about the above, this is sometimes another indicator that all may not be as it should be.
Children start making sounds at quite an early age – although not actually words. The first letter sounds that you generally hear from babies and young toddlers are the sounds p / b / m / t / d / n / k / g followed by the fricatives (i.e. those sounds that have a buzzing or hissing quality – f /s ). Commonly this will sound like mumumum, dadada, gagaga.
Generally language accelerates quite quickly from around 12 months onwards, especially in an environment where children are immersed and surrounded in language and given opportunity to turn take even from infancy.
Children ‘should’ be:
- saying several words by 15-18 months of age
- pointing to familiar people and some body parts by 18 months
- saying 50 or more words by 2 years of age
- putting two words together to form a sentence by age 2
- following simple directions by age 2
If you have concerns about a child’s communication development, it may be worth talking to a health visitor or consulting with your local Children’s Centre where drop in clinics with Speech and Language Therapists may be available to you.
Is there a reason to communicate?
Before you do though, check that a child has a reason and a need to communicate. What do we mean by this?
There are many reasons why a child might not be developing communication as quickly as we’d like; but one of the biggest reasons in the 21stcentury is not, as you might think, autism or a specific language impairment or even reluctance, it is because children don’t have the need to.
We like to make life as easy and comfortable as possible for children and so we provide food, toys and activities they like at times we know they want them and by doing so, pre-empt the need for them to ask for themselves.
When needs are anticipated in this way, a child’s need to make an effort and therefore develop their expressive skills is simply not necessary. Older siblings also like to talk for their younger brothers and sisters, again reducing the need for a child to speak for themselves.This is why turn taking, even with very small children who cannot yet speak, is so important. A smile conveys that an infant wants to join in, a turn of the head and body away, that they don’t wish to be involved. Older babies can make their preferences clear by being allowed to ‘choose’ by pointing to what they would like as you say the words, or use signing (or preferably both!) and eventually will come to know and use the words for themselves.
Children are born innately social beings and every child has a need to communicate – through body language, gesture, intonation, facial expression and emotions from the day that they are born. Given the right interactions and opportunities, speech is not far behind but in the meantime, these other forms of communication give us the ability to determine likes and dislikes as well as care for small people respectfully.
This week, Little Signers Club has a set of the wonderful ICAN Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk cards to giveaway which are packed full of wonderful activities to do with little ones to encourage speech, language and communication aims.
If you would like to enter, please head over to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/littlesignersclub.co.uk) LIKE us and write ‘Babbling Babies’ or ‘Toddler Talk’ on our wall!
Competition closes 31st Dec 2013 at 12:00 gmt
You can also access lots of useful tips online: