Child development milestones may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for parents and caregivers. While milestones give us an indication of the child’s development when compared to typically developing children, the need to reach milestones by a certain time-frame during the course of development may result in high expectations for the child to reach certain goals while missing on the current skills the child would be developing. On the other hand, milestones may also enable us to support children with early intervention (ASHA, n.d).
What are milestones?
In terms of language development, milestones help us to identify children who are at risk of speech, language and communication needs.
6 month milestone
As early as 6 months of age, children start to develop the ability to coordinate their attention with an adult to objects or events such as pointing to an airplane and the child looks up at the sky to follow the adult’s point of reference. This skill is important for social, cognitive and language development. The use of social gestures also starts to develop with the child being observed to wave or point.
By 12-18 months, we observe that children typically start using some verbal language with meaningful words. An average of 10 words is observed by this age. Children may start using words to refer to things which are meaningful to them.
The Walking Mile
Another milestone which shall be considered includes the age at which the child would have started walking. Why is this important? Walking gives the child an opportunity for exploration and in turn, this promotes language and vocabulary learning whereby the child can associate more words and vocabulary in relation to his/her environment. The development of other gross and fine motor skills also provides an indication of the overall development of the child.
24 month milestone
At around 24 months, children may start combining words together as they start to gain a wider vocabulary. At this time, children typically have a vocabulary ranging between 50-100 words.
Language development may be encouraged through social skills. Spending time with children of the same age encourages the development of further language skills and vocabulary. Children may be encouraged to imitate their peers, try to initiate communication and develop verbal language.
When should we refer?
Upon concern with respect to language-development milestones, one can seek a consultation with a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) who through play, can observe the development of language both in terms of comprehension and expression as well as in terms of the social use of language and cognitive skill development. This will help the SLP to plan the course of intervention if this is deemed to be required.
An assessment will not harm the child in any way and if the child is observed to be acquiring language in an age-appropriate manner, speech and language therapy will not be indicated. On the other hand, should risks be identified during the initial assessment, the SLP may provide strategies and carry-over activities that may support further language development. Referrals to other professionals in order to support the child holistically may also be suggested.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Kirby Cutajar is a qualified speech and language pathologist with Willingness. She works with clients of all ages with communication challenges due to developmental delays and disabilities.
ASHA (n.d). How does your child hear and talk? Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart/