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Language development: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Often Children will be referred to a speech and language therapist following concerns regarding their general language development.

This concern could be due to their:

  1. Comprehension skills or Receptive ability.
  2. The Substance of their language or Expressive speech.
  3. The Clarity or Intelligibility of their spoken output.

When a child is referred for an Assessment by a speech and language therapist the following areas will most likely be assessed:

  1. Comprehension
  2. Attention and listening skills
  3. Play skills
  4. Expressive speech
  5. Medical and developmental history
  6. Phonological / sound system development
  7. Interaction and social skills

Referral requirements differ with each area, but generally most children are referred by one of the following sources:

  1. Parents
  2. G.P.
  3. Health Visitor
  4. School
  5. Before a child is assessed it is important that they have had a hearing test.

It is difficult to pin-point a cause for a child to experience difficulty in acquiring language. There are many causative factors ranging from poor hearing history, genetic pre-disposition, poor linguistic stimulation to an overall developmental delay. The most important aspect is an early referral to a speech and language therapist.

The most general symptoms or concerns that parents voice are:

  1. Unclear speech, only family and close friends can understand him/her.
  2. A child using gestures rather than speech to convey meaning/needs.
  3. A younger child may be extremely quiet as a result of “chatty” siblings removing the need for the younger child to communicate.
  4. A child whose nursery/ play-group have voiced concerns regarding his/her ability to communicate / play with peers.
  5. A child who is having problems with explaining what is happening, understanding questions, following simple instructions, and holding a simple conversation.

Development Guidelines
There follows a brief outline of normal language development and (it must be stressed that these are rough guides and each child is different in the rate at which they acquire language)

The children presenting for a speech and language assessment may experience difficulties in one or more areas.

0-6 months

  • Initial communication through crying with intonation to indicate meaning, i.e. hunger, pain, happy, sad etc.
    progresses to vowel and consonant like sounds, eg. ” Ma” “Ba”.
  • These verbalizations may convey meaning, or simply be sound play, or Babbling—a vital developmental stage of language acquisition.
  • The infant will respond to human voices by turning his head towards the sound source, he will recognize his name, and the tone in which it is said.

12 months

  • Comprehends simple instructions.
  • Is aware of turn taking and the social aspect of speech.
  • Uses a few words of meaning.
  • Imitates and babbles inflection patterns.

18 months

  • Echolalia. - repeating a word or phrase over and over again.
  • Vocabulary is mainly made of nouns 5-20 words.
  • Able to follow simple commands.

24 months

  • Responds to commands such as “ show me your nose.”
  • Approximately ¾ of the spoken output is intelligible.
  • Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words.
  • One and two word sentences emerge eg. “Mummy go.”
  • Starting to use prepositions, usually in, on or under.
  • Me and mine star