Understanding Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

Do you remember the first words your children uttered? It must be one of the precious milestones in your life as a parent. The process of your child learning how to speak is both magical and frustrating at the same time. However, the difficulty only lies in your understanding of their speech and language development.

The moment your baby is born and makes his first cry, his language development begins. Talking is our primary tool to be able to express our ideas and feelings, for other people to understand us, and for everyone to get along. More than a tool, it is empowerment.

There are times when parents fail to recognize that their child is undergoing challenges and difficulties in their speech. A common example is Lisp. Most parents associate the atypical pronunciation of s and z letters with a dental defect. Without proper guidance, some children carry their /eths/ and /theeths/ even if they grow back their teeth. The more you recognize how your children speak as they begin to communicate, the more you can be there for them. Knowing when to seek help and what kind of therapy is needed is important.  Eventually, you help them to progress from spoken to written language and improve their interactions with teachers, friends, and family.

This is a brief guide to understanding your child’s speech and language development taken from the parenting book, “Time to Talk.”

Understanding the 5 Tools of Communication

  1. Hearing

You child needs hearing to be able to speak and communicate verbally. It is a building block to talking. Speech and language is developed as a child grows; however, hearing is natural. Development begins in the mother’s womb and is fully established by the time your child is born. A perfectly working auditory system brings about apt speech and language advancement. If your child’s hearing is impaired, it can have a negative impact on his academic performance and social interaction. There will be evident difficulty in the following: learning correct pronunciation, proper grammar, listening comprehension, reading ability, and behaviour.

  1. Speech

Speech is one of the two main components to your child’s communication. The other is language. What is the difference? A perfect example is when my son, Darren, who has Lisp says “I like thtrawberry ithcream.” His statement is understandable in terms of context and grammar. Darren used language to express what he likes. However, his pronunciation of the words “strawberry” and “ice cream” is different from normal. Considering he is still young, Darren’s speech may be appropriate for a young child, whereas for our eldest son, Bennet, who is in grade school, this kind of speech should already raise some concern. One characteristic of speech development is the way children make certain sounds vary considerably with age.

  1. Language

Language development begins at an early state in your child’s life. From the moment they spoke ‘mama’ or ‘papa’ or it could be ‘banana,’ to their childhood days, teen life, and throughout adulthood. Because language evolves and there are new words to learn as we grow older. Language is critically important to our everyday lives, from social interactions, to the ability to get our needs met, to the ability to express ourselves. Everyone uses language daily. Our ability to understand words precedes our ability to say them. Thus, children have participated in the system of spoken language even before they started talking.

  1. Fluency

Our brain is pretty awesome. It figures out a way to put speech and language together. It works so that when we speak, we are able to deliver the sounds and words at the right timing so it is understood by listeners. This is what language professionals call fluency. Children needs to master fluency in order to communicate effectively and it is quite the challenge. Even adults are unable to speak fluently 100% of the time. Hence, there is a wide variation of fluency skills among kids. That is why you may notice in growing children that their speech fluency varies when they are excited, sad, tired or trying to express complex ideas.

  1. Literacy

There are certain factors contributing to the ability to read and write. Reading involves acquiring meaning from print. This includes using a written alphabet, developing the aptitude to translate letters into sounds and words, and using oral language to comprehend a message. Reading is very important: Over many years found a strong correlation between reading skills and academic success. Researches have shown that kids who are good talkers also tend to become good readers and writers.


Red Flags to Look Out For

  • Is your child experiencing language delay?
  • Is your child constantly asks “What?” or “What did you say?”
  • Is your child not responding to his name when being called?
  • At 8 months, is your baby still NOT babbling babas, mamas or dadas?
  • Do you not understand most of what your child is saying at 3 yrs old?
  • Can your pre-schooler say his k and g?
  • Is your child pronouncing r as /l/ and s as /eth/?
  • Is your 6 year old kid unable to sequence events?
  • Does your child stutter?


Learn how to spot your child’s difficulties and challenges with everything you’ve learned in this article. Seek an expert’s advice whether putting your child to therapy is necessary or if there are alternatives.

Watch out for more articles from Grow Up Fun to help you understand your growing child.

Leave a Reply