As noted in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) online article, "What is Language? What is Speech?," speech does not encompass the full meaning of language. From infancy, human beings develop language, even before actual words are formed in spoken language. Between the ages of 1 and 3, a child's language development occurs at a rapid pace and is influenced by a wide variety of behavioural and environmental factors.
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The Leo Magan Speech Sanctuary's online article "Factors Affecting Child Speech and Language Development" lists inadequate stimulation as a primary consideration in delayed language development. The ASHA defines language as a set of "socially shared rules"; therefore, it makes sense that social stimulation would play a great role in language development. Parents of babies and toddlers should be sure to encourage language development by reading and speaking to their children as much as possible. Sign language has been shown to ease the transition to external communication in babies and toddlers.
Quality of Child Care
A 2007 article published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reports that the quality of child care affects language development, particularly in toddlers. Child care facilities with a small child-to-caregiver ratio and small group sizes are preferable. The article summarises a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, which concluded that "Children in higher quality care had more advanced language development, especially at 24 and 36 months." For example, 36-month-old children in higher quality care facilities possessed a vocabulary with double the words of children in lower quality care. All children in the study were from families with two incomes and parents with higher education.
Medical and behavioural concerns can also impact language development. Speech disorders, such as stuttering, can make children difficult to understand and slow the process. Some children struggle to understand others' thoughts and feelings or have difficulty expressing their own, which stems from a language disorder. Parents of children who experience these difficulties may want to consult a speech-language pathologist. Additionally, a child's medical history can impact language development. Severe ear infections, for example, can cause temporary hearing loss, which may slow a child's speech and language development.
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- ASHA: What is Language? What is Speech?
- Leo Magan Speech Sanctuary: Factors Affecting Child Speech and Language Development
- ASHA: Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
- Babies and Sign Language
- FPG Snapshot, University of North Carolina: Quality of Childcare Affects Language Development