LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

Language refers to one’s understanding and expression of ideas including: the form (i.e. word structure and order), content (i.e. meaning), and use (i.e. functional and social application). When one has difficulty understanding (i.e. receptive language) or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language), then they have a language disorder. A language disorder may involve difficulty in grammar, vocabulary, and/or the social use of language. It may be developmental (as is the case with most children) or acquired.

A neurologically acquired language disorder is referred to as aphasia. Acquired language disorders result from damage to the left-hemisphere of the brain, usually following a stroke or brain injury. An individual with aphasia may have problems with speaking, listening, reading, and/or writing.

Below is a table of typical infant/toddler language development (table courtesy: American Speech & Hearing Association)

BIRTH TO 3 MONTHS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Startles to loud sounds

  • Quiets or smiles when spoken to

  • Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying

  • Increases or decreases sucking behavior in response to sound


Talking

  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)

  • Cries differently for different needs

  • Smiles when he/she sees the primary caregiver

4 TO 6 MONTHS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds

  • Responses to changes in tone of voice

  • Pays attention to music


Talking

  • Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b, and m

  • Chuckles and laughs

  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure

  • Makes gurling sounds when left alone and when playing with you

7 TO 12 MONTHS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake

  • Turns and looks in the direction of sounds

  • Listens when spoken to

  • Begins to respond to request (e.g. "Come here" or "Want more?")

Talking

  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as "tata upup bibibibi"

  • Uses speech or non crying sounds to get and keep attention

  • Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms out to be picked up)

  • Imitates different speech sounds

  • Has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although sounds may not be clear

1 TO 2 YEARS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Points to a few body parts when asked

  • Follows simple commands and understands simple questions ("Roll the ball", "Kiss the baby", Where's your shoe?")

  • Listens to simple stories, songs, and rhymes

  • Points to pictures in a book when named

Talking

  • Says more words every month

  • Uses some one- or two- word questions, e.g. "Where's kitty?", "Go bye bye?", "What's that?")

  • Uses gestures to commnicate (wavings, holding arms to be picked up)

  • Puts two words together ("more cookie", "no juice", "mommy book")

  • Uses many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words

2 TO 3 YEARS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Understands differences in meaning ("go-stop", "in-on", "big-little", "up-down")

  • Follows two requests ("Get the book and put it on the table").

  • Listens to enjoys hearing stories for longer periods of time

Talking

  • Has a word for almost everything

  • Uses two-or three- words to talk about and ask for things

  • Uses k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds

  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners, most of the time

  • Often asks for or directs attention to objects by naming them

3 TO 4 YEARS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Hears you when you call from another room

  • Hears television or radio at the same volume as other family members

  • Answers simple who, what, where and why questions

Talking

  • Talks about activities at school or at friends' homes

  • People outside the family usually understand the child's speech

  • Uses a lot of sententices that have 4 or more words

  • Usually talks easily without repeating syllables or words

4 TO 5 YEARS

Hearing and Understanding

  • Pays attention to a short story and answers simple questions about them

  • Hears and understands most of what is said at home and in school

Talking

  • Uses sentences that give lots of detail("The biggest peach is mine")

  • Tells stories that stick to topic

  • Communicates easily with other children and adults

  • Says rhyming words

  • Names some letters and numbers

  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family

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