Early Language and Communication
Babies and young children learn best through play and during daily activities. There are many ways you can encourage language and communication development in your child every day.
Communication is the act of sending a message to another person. It may involve words, body language, gestures, sounds, facial expression, and eye contact. Attention, listening, understanding, and motivation are essential skills that make a child a successful communicator.
Play is important in encouraging the skills necessary for communication and language development. Observe your child’s focus of attention, follow their lead in play, get face-to-face and make comments on what they are showing interest in.
Joint Attention involves two people having a shared focus on the same stimulus (something that encourages an activity or a reaction). This may be an object, sound, event or person. Joint attention can be achieved when the adult directs their child’s attention to the object by using verbal cues i.e. sounds and words and/or using non-verbal cues such as eye-gazing, pointing, showing. Joint attention skills underpin speech, language and communication development.
Language is a part of communication and includes both understanding and using words and sentences. There are two ways to process and develop language: Analytical Language Development and Gestalt Language Development.
- Analytical Language Processors (“Word babies”) learn language in a sequential order i.e. they learn single words first, then they combine two words before moving on to short phrases and sentences.
- Children who are Gestalt Language Processors (“intonation babies”) typically hear the melody of language and learn language in whole chunks. This often starts with Echolalia. Echolalia is when children repeat what another person has said. Echolalia is an essential part of language development for Gestalt Language Processors (GLP).
How do I find out more?
Below are some suggested resources for you to understand more about early language and communication:
- Article by Caroline Bowen: Typical Speech and Language Acquisition in infants and young children
- Down Syndrome Education and Resources at down-syndrome.org
- Parent Tips from the Hanen Centre
- Gestalt Language Development article