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Speech and Language - when does this happen?

During the first few years the physical, emotional and cognitive development in our little one's is amazing. Our babies are learning to crawl, clap, run and jump and may start to communicate with non verbal cues which progress into little conversations. Each pre-schooler develops in their own time. Some walk by their first birthday, others are yet to speak by the time they are 2 years old. So what’s normal and when should you seek some support if you have concerns?


I reached out to Hallie Pearson, a Speech and Language Therapist from Shout which is a fantastic organization supporting families and individuals around all thing speech and language. Here’s Hallie’s response to the nitty gritty questions…


What is a Speech Language Therapist?


A Speech-Language Therapist has the coolest job in the world, didn’t you know??? But really, it is an awesome and rewarding job where we get to communicate with amazing families and children and it is different each and every single day.


A Speech-Language Therapist works with children and adults on developing a wide range of communication skills so they can achieve meaningful relationships, learn to their full potential and socialise with success.


What do they do?


Where do I start?! A lot of people say to me, “do you support children with lisps?” and for sure we do that work, but there is a much wider scope to the types of communication challenges we assist. On a given week I can support children with swallowing difficulties, speech sounds delays, stutters, voice disorders, language delays/disorders (verbal and comprehension), literacy challenges and social communication difficulties.


What age do you work with?


Speech-Language Therapists work with people of all ages from birth right through to older people.



How can I help my baby develop language skills?


The easiest thing you can do is to talk, talk and talk some more! Sounds easy right? It really is. As a mother of a one year old I will talk about what I am doing and what they are doing all day long; this supports their comprehension skills. The more vocabulary they understand the more words they begin to say.


  • Modelling action words or verbs for you child is really powerful as well as they can be used across a range of routines/activities.

  • Imitate what your child says, even if they are simply playing with sounds, this can quickly turn into a pretty fun game but it shows them that their voice is powerful and reinforces all attempts they are making to communicate.

  • Interpreting for them is key, especially for early communicators, as this will help reduce any frustrations. For example if they are pointing towards their wagon you could say “yes that’s your wagon, you sit down in your wagon, Mum can push you in your wagon”.


Is there a difference between boys and girls speech development?


In short, yes. Boys and girls will generally say their first words between 9-12 months but of those children who are late talkers there are generally more boys than girls (3:1). It’s possible for late talkers with support to catch up by 5 years old but 40% may require additional support at school entry due to lower then average verbal skills. Be proactive! If you have concerns about your child’s speech development reach out for support rather than having a “wait and see” approach.


What if my child has a dummy. What are the effects of prolonged dummy use?


Look, as Mum of a child who used a dummy for 6 months I completely understand the place for dummies in supporting sleep for some children. The biggest issue can be that if a child uses a dummy as a comforter during the day and outside of nap times as this can limit their communication opportunities. If a child has a dummy in their mouth they may not initiate as much language or have the same opportunities to imitate which is how we begin to talk. Some research suggests that prolonged use and overuse throughout the day can lead to some difficulties with sounds produced at the front of the mouth and increases the chances of abnormal developing speech patterns.


When should I reach out for support?


I always say to parents, trust your instincts! If you feel something isn’t quite right, 99% of the time you will be right! With speech and language skills I would never advise to wait and see as strong speech and language skills are crucial and underpin the development of literacy, learning and socialisation in the early school years. It is common for us to receive referrals for children as young as 18-24 months for a consultation.


How does eating/feeding and speech go hand in hand?


Whether a child is breast-fed or bottle-fed they will more then likely develop intelligible speech. There is limited research to suggest any correlation between oral motor skills/feeding and speech outcomes.


Where can I find a SLT in my community?


In New Zealand your first port of call for Speech-Language Therapist support would be the Ministry of Education. You can refer yourself online or through your early childhood centre or GP. If you feel like you require more frequent input or your child requires 1:1 support, accessing a private Speech-Language Therapist would be recommended. Shout Speech-Language Therapy LTD is always happy to help 


If you would like more information and support from an SLT you can contact Shout Speech-Language Therapy LTD through https://www.shout-speech.co.nz


If you need any additional information or support please feel free to contact me at amy@littledreamers.co.nz to book in a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to talk about what is happening for your little one and how we can help.



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