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Starting early: Why it’s so important

You’ve probably heard that the early years of your child’s life are the most important for building strong language skills. That’s because your child’s brain is developing extremely fast during this time, and he’s more open to learning and more receptive to enriching experiences than he will ever be.

From birth to 5 years of age, children learn language by participating in back-and-forth interactions with the important adults in their lives. When a child sends a message, whether it be with a gesture, a sound, or a word, his parents' responses serve as helpful feedback that reinforce and encourage his learning. This responsive feedback is an essential ingredient in the language-learning process for every child.

But if a child is communicating less than others his age, he’s unlikely to receive as much of this essential feedback. Because he isn’t talking, adults naturally communicate with him less, so he doesn’t get the helpful input he needs to build his language skills. Since children with delayed speech or language delays can’t participate fully during activities and conversations, they may fall even further behind if they are not provided with the help they need.

This is why it’s so important not to wait if you see any sign that you child’s communication development may be delayed. Some parents are advised that their child will likely “grow out of it”, and they simply wait for the child to catch up. But a “wait and see” approach means that precious time can be lost during this critical learning phase.

On the other hand, if a child with a delay receives extra support from the important adults in his life, he can make significant gains. Early language intervention is critically important for these children to develop the communication skills necessary for future success in their academic and personal lives.

Simply put, the earlier a child receives the help he needs, the better his language outcome will be.

Knowing when to be concerned

To ensure that your child receives the help he needs, it’s important to be able to recognize key warning signs of language delay.

Click here for a list of specific red flags for language delay.

 

Go back to the main What Parents Need to Know page.