Speech and Language Milestones in the First Year

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Speech and Language Milestones in the First Year | Eastside Speech

Often as parents of infants (<12months old) we are very focused on the physical milestones of rolling, sitting and early walking as indicators of our child’s gross motor development.

Did you know that there are equally important key skills we look out for in infants as they develop the potential of speech and language?

Dr Robyn Cantle Moore and Kim Colyvas* have done a study looking at normal vocal production in infants from 0-12 months.

Their tool, The Infant Monitor of vocal Production (IMP), (Cantle Moore, 2004), is a normed instrument that looks at the relationship between an infant’s audition, processing and oral motor capacity that underlie and infants progress towards speech.

There is a progression from non-speech sounds-> vowel like sounds-> canonical babbling ->infant’s first words.

Speech pathologists are interested in the variety and complexity and frequency of speech sounds infants make as they approach 12 months of age.

Difficulties with an infant’s feeding skills may also indicate the presence of oro-motor difficulties that will impact on speech development.

A typically developing infant will show interest in the eyes and mouth of the person speaking to them. When infants focus on eyes and mouths, as they mature in that first year, they are gaining extra information to discriminate very similar sounds made by those talking to them.

Infants generally respond when they hear a familiar sound or speaking voice.

Changes in pitch and vocal play are important skills infants must develop in order to start to learn to use their voice for speech.

Vocalising while mouthing an object is also an important skill that may underpin an infant’s future ability to produce consonants.

Practicing simple sound patterns like “bubu” help children practice speech-like sound patterns

Early copying of familiar animal sounds may indicate a child’s ability to copy familiar features of speech.

Being able to produce a string of syllables on a single breath is evidence of an infant’s oro-motor capacity for speech development. They often do this while playing alone.

Not all infants chatter, but they do generally produce specific sound patterns relating to particular objects.

The tool used in the Cantle Moore-Colyvas study was initially developed with a focus on children with hearing impairment, aiding parent’s understanding of their child’s progress towards speech. However, the norms available for typically developing children now are able to aid speech pathologists and parents in timely decision making regarding early intervention for speech and language (as well as hearing device fitting if required).

The ability to identify children <12 months “at risk” of language or oro-motor impairment enables speech pathologists to intervene early, rather lose valuable time waiting until they are 18-24 months old.

* Robyn Cantle Moore & Kim Colyvas (2018): The Infant Monitor of vocal Production (IMP) normative study: important foundations, Deafness & Education International, DOI:10.1080/14643154.2018.1483098