my girl is not talkingQuestion: My 16 month old girl is not speaking a word. My friend’s child can say ‘ma ma’, ‘star’, ‘bird’ and ‘dog’. Should I be worried?

Answer: First of all, it really depends on what is defined as speech. Children generally start ‘speaking’ from 5 months but it is more of gurgles, sounds and nuances. Speech, as we know it, could possibly start from 10 months onwards with the imitation stage wherein they would be imitating the sound without knowing the meaning and then by 12 months, start with mono-syllabic words with meaning before finally moving onto some form of 2-3 syllabic words.

However, I must emphasise that it differs from child to child. The day to day experiences, contact with adults, exposure to learning and even the physio-logical development of the child are factors to consider in defining when they start ‘talking’. It usually starts with mono-syllabic words like; da-da, ma-ma etc.

It does not mean that if a child does not speak, the child therefore is not ‘communicating’. Most of the time, there is a lot of listening and observation taking place. Your daughter should be responding to you in some form, e.g. pointing, grugles, jargons, these are actually still defined as speech.

  1. Some ways to kick-start the use of language as a means of communication: Talk to the child as often and use natural language. Avoid doing baby talk and set yourselves as models for the child to follow in oracy skills.
  2. Encourage a child to also see the need to use language. For example, if a child wants milk, encourage the child to enunciate the word ‘milk’ rather than to point and demand. Give praise for any effort put in by the child to make meaning through speech.
  3. Sing and enact silly songs and share books. These provide meaningful platforms for language to be used in context and meaning making

In time, your daughter will blossom and before you know it, she will be a fluent speaker.

LEAP Schoolhouse has an ‘Ask and Learn’ section every Thursday. If you have any questions regarding language or literacy development, feel free to drop your questions in the comment box below, or post them on LEAP SchoolHouse Facebook page

Esther-and-her-three-kids-smallIn this Ask The Expert section, we asked Esther Lim, CEO and Founder of LEAP SchoolHouse, about language and literacy development in children. Born and educated in Singapore, she holds a Master Degree in Education (NTU/NIE), Bachelor Degree in Arts (NTU), Diploma in Marketing – Top student for the year 2000 (Chartered Institute of Marketing). Esther has more than 10 years of teaching experience and has taught widely in both Secondary and Primary schools. She was also involved in curriculum planning and development work for the primary unit at MOE for several years. Esther has also conducted workshops and talks for educators, locally and overseas. Besides all the above credentials, Esther is also a mother of three children.

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