Toddler Speech and Language SkillsWhen most people think of speech therapy, they remember the days when kids were pulled out of elementary classes to go down to the speech room because they could not say their r’s, or what is known as a lisp (laymen’s terms), and could not pronounce s’s correctly. However, there is much more to what speech therapy is and it begins in early intervention.

Communication begins at birth and so do speech and language development. Think about how a baby communicates. The baby cries when needs are not met or coos and smiles when they are happy. A mother often reports that her baby cries differently when hungry, tired, or uncomfortable perhaps from a wet or dirty diaper. Babies should begin to babble around 4-6 mos. They make eye contact and watch caregivers to learn very basic pre-speech skills. Babies will develop the use of gestures and pointing before using words to communicate. This is a very important skill for babies. Next, the babbling begins to sound more like words. Young children often make word approximations before using whole words articulated like an older child or adult. For example, a baby or young toddler may use “baba” for bottle or “da” for done. This is normal and all part of typical speech-language development. In early intervention, we encourage parents to respond and praise any attempts or word “approximations” a child makes. This tells the child that when they make attempts to communicate they will get something, whether it is attention, praise, a cup on the counter, a hug, or a toy they want. Communication is all about getting wants and needs met.

A TEIS speech therapist will guide parents on what typical speech and language development looks like if a parent is concerned. Many people forget that one and two year olds talk! And they should! Young toddlers start using words around 12-15 months with early developing words like mama, dada, ball… It is important for TEIS therapists to teach and show parents ways to encourage imitation of gestures, signs, sounds, and words during therapy sessions. TEIS wants parents to feel confident to use strategies taught during sessions throughout the week during daily routines. Parents are a child’s best teacher; this is why we involve family in every session.