Speech Sound Development, Baby Geniuses, and a Celebration!

Before I get down to business today I'd like to just say a quick "WOOHOOOO!" followed by a massive "THANK YOU!"

It's been just over a week since I started this blog and tonight it was viewed for the 600th time! 

According to the brains over at Google, people from all over the world have been viewing my blog and I couldn't be more excited about it! 

These stats tell me that a lot of the readers of my blog at the moment are my lovely extended family who are spread out over Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand and Australia.  Not to mention my amazing friends!  Thank you all so much for taking the time to read what I have to say!  

And then there's countries like Ireland, UAE, Singapore, France and Hong Kong! I love that my blog is reaching all corners of the world and the fact that people that I've never met are reading my posts just blows my mind.  Hello to my new friends!  :)

I'd love to get feedback from my readers about my blog so please comment on my posts and share your thoughts! 

As I mentioned before, I have a really big extended family.  My dad has two brothers and my mom has 4 brothers and 2 sisters.  This means that in total I've got 19 first cousins, many of whom are married with children...and that's just my first cousins!  If I tried to count my second cousins, this blog post would never get finished.  

With all the new little additions that are being added to our family each year, I thought that I'd dedicate the next couple of blog posts to all the soon-to-be parents, new parents, or proud grandparents who are reading my blog.  

Tonight's post details the typical pattern of speech sound development for children.  Later posts will talk about typical language development and the milestones to keep track of.  If you aren't sure what the difference is between speech and language, read my last blog post

If you're short on time click here to download a printable chart listing all of the speech sounds and the ages at which each should be acquired by children.  Stick it on your fridge and refer to it before you start freaking out that your child is saying "wabbit" instead of "rabbit!"  (hint: if they're under 6, stop worrying!)  If you've got some time to spare, read on!  I promise you won't regret it!  It's about babies!

Have any of you seen the movie "Baby Geniuses"?  The premise of the movie is that babies are born knowing the secrets of the universe and 'baby talk' is actually a sophisticated language that babies use to communicate with each other. While this may not be true, babies do actually have special powers that adults don't have.  Before the age of 12 months, babies are able to hear and discriminate between all of the speech sounds of all the languages in the world.  

For example, Hindi has two 'b' sounds.  The first is the same as in English (i.e. the 'b' in the word 'bat').  The second is 'bha' - a 'b' sound but with lots and lots of air leaving your mouth.  Click here and see if you can hear the difference! 

At 6 months, babies from around the world are able to hear the difference between these two sounds.  Between the ages of 6 months and 12 months, babies listen to what we are saying to them and 'take statistics'.  By 12 months, babies have learned to tune into only the sounds that are part of their language.  This means that those babies who have not been regularly exposed to Hindi will no longer be able to hear the difference between the two 'b's. A 12 month old baby who is brought up in an English speaking environment will hear the two 'b's as the same - the 'b' in the word 'baby' because that's the only 'b' in their language.  Absolute genius!

And this is the beginning of speech sound development!  

Apart from learning how to perceive the sounds in their language, babies also begin playing around with producing the sounds of their language. 

Between 2-3 months, we'll hear babies begin to coo. Then at 4-6 months, they will start producing early forms of syllables and blowing raspberries!  This then extends into repeated syllables such as 'bababa' at 7-10 months.  Between 11-14 months, is when the fun begins.  This is when your baby will start having 'conversations' with you without actually saying any words at all!  They will use what we call 'jargon' and their 'sentences' will have the same pitch and volume as an adult's but without any real words.  During this period of time, babies should begin saying their first words. All of these stages are important for speech sound development.

My gorgeous niece showing off her speech skills 

Maybe it's just me, but I find it utterly amazing how the brains of little babies work!  And it just goes to show how important it is for parents to talk to and interact with their little ones...because they are listening!  And trying to copy you!

Below is the chart detailing the speech sounds of English and the ages at which children should start to produce them.  
Adapted from Sanders (1972).  Click here for the printable version. 

I hope that you learned a little something new today!  If you are concerned about the development of your child's speech sounds, contact a local speech-language pathologist to discuss your concerns and if necessary, arrange for a speech sound assessment.  

If you are interested in learning more about the perception of speech sounds in babies, watch this TedTalk by Patricia Kuhl:  The linguistic genius of babies

As always, it's been a pleasure :)  Stay tuned for future posts about language milestones. And please leave your comments and thoughts below. 

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