Every child is different. Some children will develop speech first, whilst others will begin crawling and walking first. However, there are a few milestones in your child’s early life that can indicate normal development and health. Pay attention to these. If you notice any abnormalities, this may be due to illness or hearing loss, both of which are easier to treat when detected early.
About children’s hearing and language skills development
So what are the major hearing, speech, and language milestones you should look for in your child, and what the signs that something might be wrong?
Birth to Five Months
In the first few months of your child’s life, they should be reacting appropriately to noises and tones. Whilst language is not yet understood at this time, there are key milestones in hearing and speech that you should look out for. For hearing, your child should be awakened and/or startled by loud sounds and soothed by soft, quiet voices and sounds. They should begin to recognise your voice, as well. You can gauge this by how they react to your voice or someone else’s. Your voice should trigger them to stop crying and calm down more quickly than other voices, when speaking in the same soothing manner.
In this same timeframe, your child should be making noises, too. They should be cooing and vocalizing different noises for when they are happy or upset. At this point, they will begin laughing and making pre-language noises that will communicate their basic moods.
Three to Eleven Months
At this stage of development, your child should begin responding to different tones and basic changes of tone (i.e., the word “No”). They should be enjoying rattles and other noise-making toys, turning to face things that make sounds, and repeating sounds that you make when talking to them, like, “Ooh” and “Ah”.
They will also start babbling at this point, rather than just making their own simple sounds. This is about the time that they will start saying things like “Mama” and “Dada”, though these words will not have particular meaning yet. This is a phase of stringing syllables together, though it’s still pre-language.
Six to Fifteen Months
This is the point of development to which your child should begin to show some very basic understanding of language. They should be reacting to their own name and should understand what basic words are that have been repeated to them or are often present; such as cup, bowl, shoe, hi, or bye-bye.
Towards the end of this time, they should start babbling to themselves when alone with no other human stimulus. They should also begin pointing to familiar objects when you prompt them. For example, if there is a ball near them and you say something like, “Where’s the ball?” or “Is that a ball?”, they should be able to recognise it and point to it.
At this point, your child should have a small vocabulary of their own, ranging from about four to six words. They will be able to answer questions you ask them nonverbally by nodding or shaking their head, retrieving or pointing at an object, etc. They will also start to mimic and imitate you and your voice at this point, gaining more words and sounds for their vocabulary and repertoire.
After this time, you should notice that your child’s vocabulary continues to grow and that their understanding of what you are saying improves. If you notice any change or plateau in this learning curve, you should talk to your doctor. It could be that your child has an ear infection, hearing loss, or a speech problem that can be addressed in early childhood to avoid learning impairment later on.
If you have questions or concerns about childrens hearing and language skills contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see an ear nose throat specialist.