What age should a child start talking? How to complete an effective First Word Count as a first measure for Late Talkers

At what age should a child start talking or saying first words? The answer is between 10 and 12 months. From this point there typically is an explosion of words as the days and weeks pass by. How many words would a child need to be saying to be considered a "late talker". This depends on the child's age in months! 

Dr Sandra McMahon, Speech-Language Pathologist, PhD answers questions parents ask when they are required to fill in developmental checklists at doctors, child cares and health nurse check ups about early speech development in toddlers.

"Is your child saying first words yet?"

OR "How many words does your child say?" should be easy questions. In reality, questions like these can be tricky to answer. Many parents "get it wrong" and it can lead to misleading information about where your toddler's development really is at. This can mean they do not get the early intervention services they need.

Prevention of Late Talking starts with asking the right questions

Q:    How can I prevent Late-Talking?

A:     The First Step is to MONITOR development.

​Prevention is ALWAYS better than Cure: Monitoring Early Words from 6-10 months to 3 years can help prevent delays setting in.

​In our previous blog "late Talkers: When to Worry" we discuss how counting spoken words is a great first step to deciding: if your toddler is a late talker, doing OK or advanced for their particular age. This information is important as it may impact on your child's learning style. It can help you decide if you need to seek professional advice. It can prompt you to find fun learning activities you can use to boost language. The blog also mentioned that doing a "proper" word count can be tricky. There are several factors to consider when trying to count spoken words to check milestones in toddlers.

Q: CAN I COUNT ALL WORDS? Does it matter if words are sung or the toddler is copying what someone else said?

​A: WORDS REALLY NEED TO BE SPONTANEOUSLY SPOKEN

​Knowing if a child can sing a few words from a known song or can copy what you say (e.g., Say "bed" and the child says "bed") is important. However, the spoken words really should be SPONTANEOUS words used during every day interactions when completing a developmental milestone check.

​The SPOKEN WORD COUNTER has tips for getting children to try to say words without copying them. There are SO many pictures and videos of the words that you can show your child if you are unsure if they know the word. This will encourage them to say a word spontaneously without just copying you.

Q: DOES "MUMU" AND "DADA" COUNT?

​A: GENERALLY, NO.

​It is so amazing when we first hear "mummummum" or "dadada". Our excitement at hearing them actually encourages babies to try it again. This leads to first words like "mummy" and "Daddy" being used at the correct times. If babies actually "call" using something like "Muma" or "Dadda" then you can count them as first words. If they are really just extensions of babble they are not what is considered "real first words"

Q  My toddler use to say THAT  word, but I haven't heard it for a while. DO I COUNT IT?

A: NOT IF IT'S BEEN A WHILE. Try to show them a picture or video of the word. There are many on the word counter. Seeing a picture might trigger the word again - MAYBE THEY JUST HAVEN'T HAD TO SAY THAT WORD LATELY?

​Parents often report that they had heard a child say a word but then they don't say it again. Young children predominantly only say words about the "here and now" i.e., if they see the real thing or a picture in a book. So if the child isn't coming across that word, they may not say it enough to consoldiate into their spoken vocabulary. Generally if you haven't heard the word in a while or you can't prompt them to say it spontaneously, then you probably shouldn't put it in the word count. 

Q: IS IT OK THAT THE WORDS ARE ALL THE NAMES OF PEOPLE AND THINGS?
​A: NO.  THE TYPE OF WORDS IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE NUMBER  OF WORDS- A FACT LOST ON A LOT OF PARENTS & educators WHEN CHECKING MILESTONES

Names of things and people are usually what makes up very young child's spoken word lists (e.g, pet's name, cup, bickie). However it is important the other words  come into the vocabulary. A variety of word types is needed for effective use of language - to get their needs met and to build early sentences.  Social words (e.g., bye-bye, more, no-no), describing words (e.g., yum) and particularly action words (e.g., go, jump, open).

Some late talkers have the "correct number of words" but they are all "thing words" (nouns). This makes it difficult for children to develop to the next speaking developmetal level  - two word sentences which should be well in place by 2 years of age (e., my ball, kick ball). The spoken word counter is divided into 17 different word categories so parents can determine if toddlers really are meeting the spoken word count milestones.  

Q: HOW MANY WORDS SHOULD A TODDLER BE SAYING? HOW DO I KNOW IF THE NUMBER OF WORDS IS OK FOR THEIR SPECIFIC AGE (e.g, 12 mths, 13 mths, 26 mths?)
​A: WHILE THE EXACT NUMBER OF WORDS VARIES AT DIFFERENT AGES THERE ARE "TYPICAL" OR BALL PARK FIGURES TO HELP YOU DETERMINE IF YOUR TODDLER'S EARLY SPOKEN WORD SKILLS ARE ON TRACK.

Once the number of words have been automatically counted by the ONLINE SPOKEN WORD COUNTER, this number can be checked against the child's current age to provide a guide as to whether their Spoken Word Vocabulry is in the range of "doing OK for their age", "advanced" or "at risk of being a late talker"

​Q: DO THE WORDS HAVE TO BE SAID PERFECTLY TO COUNT?
​A: NO. THE SPEECH ATTEMPT JUST HAS TO BE GOOD ENOUGH TO be CONSISTENTLY RECOGNISE As THE TARGET WORD.

​Toddler's speech clarity is still developing throughout this stage of development. At about 2 years of age at least 75% of a toddler's speech is generally understood by an unfamiliar listener. Common errors before 3 years include leaving off the last sounds of words (e.g, book -> "boo_"). 

Q: IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW FAST THEY BUILD THEIR VOCABULARY DOES IT?
​A: CHILDREN ALL LEARN AT THEIR OWN PACE - HOWEVER CHILDREN GENERALLY DO NOT HAVE LENGTHY PLATEAUS.  IT IS WORTH TRYING SOME OF OUR TODDLER TALK TIPS IF YOU NOTICE THAT THEY ARE NOT PICKING UP NEW WORDS REGULARLY .

​Children in the 18 mth to  2year range generally have big spoken word explosions-  yet late talkers often plateau. Similarly late talkers are often excessively slow in getting new spoken words. The Spoken Word Counter can be used and re-used as often as needed to monitor changes in the number of spoken words over time. It will also show if new words are from a mixture of different categories e.g., action words, describing words. Early vocabulary development and early speech development should grow across all catgory areas and the Spolen Word Counter wil allow this to be monitored.

GRAB YOUR COPY OF THE SPOKEN WORD COUNTER HERE

PREVENT LATE TALKING- USE THIS EASY METHOD OF MONITORING SPOKEN WORDS

SPOKEN WORD COUNTER

Click Here for More information about Finding out how many words YOUR child uses

Spoken Word Counter will allow you to monitor toddlers aged between 6 months to 34 months 

​Results are automtically given online as soon as you complete the check list

​Pictues and or videos of the most common first words are available - your toddler can look at the pictures to determine if they can name that picture. Remember though that if you know they can say a word - tick it straight up!

​The Spoken Word Counter does not have to be finished all at once - so you can listen for specfic words during interactions.

​Better than a paper checklist as it has the enteraining videos to keep your toddler's interest, it counts the words for you and shows you the results based on your childs specfic age immediately on completion.

​It is very portable - it can be used on ipads, tablets and computers

The Spoken Word Counter can be a great tool to monitor you child's spoken word skill in a relaxed manner  over time - However, if you have notable concerns about your child's development always talk directly with a professional. SpeechNet Speech Pathology can provide in-clinic assessments for families in Brisbane or Skype services for those not living in Brisbane.

Do you have  concerns about the number of spoken words being used by your toddler:

Grab a copy of our FOCUS on Toddler Talk online eProgram. For more information and to purchase this easy to watch, action packed online course for parents click here.  FOCUS ON TODDLER TALK.

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Sandra McMahon