Speech-language milestones during the first year of life are documented in terms of both receptive and expressive skills. Receptive skills are associated with understanding of sounds and words. Expressive skills reflect the use of gestures and speech to communicate. Logically, receptive skills emerge prior to expressive skills; however, both receptive and expressive skills begin to develop shortly after birth.
Below are general guidelines for determining whether a baby is progressing appropriately toward use of those highly-anticipated first words.
By the end of three months:
*Recognizes mother's/father's voice *Cries differently for different needs
*Startles to loud sounds *Makes cooing sounds
*Quiets of smiles when spoken to *Smiles when sees parent
By the end of six months:
*Moves eyes in direct of sounds *Makes gurgling sounds during play with you or when alone
*Notices that some toys make noise *Begins to babble reduplicative sequences, e.g., ba-ba-ba
*Pays attention to music *Begins to laugh to show pleasure and use vocalizations to
By the end of twelve months:
*Turns and looks in direction of sounds * Uses gestures to communicate, e.g., pointing, raising arms
to indicate desire to be picked up, waving, etc.
*Listens when spoken to *Attempts to imitate sounds and words
*Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
*Understands "no" *Babbling begins to mimic rhythm of adult speech
*Understands words for common people and
common objects, e.g., mama, daddy, cup, etc. *First words are noted, e.g., mama, dada, uh-oh, etc.
*Begins to follow simple commands, e.g.,
"Give me, "Come here," etc.
Parents can set the stage for attainment of these milestones by:
- Ensuring that their child is hearing, and seeking appropriate services if there are problems with the ears or recurrent ear infections.
- Responding to their child's vocalizations by looking at the child, speaking to the child, and imitating the child's vocalizations. This reinforces the child's early attempts at communication.
- Teaching imitation of actions, such as clapping, waving bye-bye, peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, etc. This sets the stage for eventual imitation of speech and helps to establish turn-taking.
- Providing a running commentary while performing daily activities such as dressing, bathing, feeding, etc. For example, "Samantha is eating. She's eating a banana. Yummy. Samantha likes bananas."
-Speaking to their child's pediatrician if there are concerns regarding attainment of these early milestones.