Communication Development in Children with Language Delays

Language-learning can be a life-long journey, but the bulk of that journey takes place in our earliest years. In the first five years of life, when brain development is most rapid, children are more open to learning and more receptive to enriching experiences than they will ever be.

Studies have shown that during this critical period, 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.

If a child is communicating less than others his age, he is 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 optimal, helpful input he needs to build his language skills.

This is why it’s so important not to ignore any sign that a 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 can be very detrimental during this critical learning phase. 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.

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

Recognizing a Speech Delay or Language Delay

An estimated 1 in 12 children in Canada has a speech delay or language delay. As infants, these children may not babble as much as other babies or use the same number and variety of sounds. As toddlers and preschoolers, these children may be slower to use words, and may take longer to speak in full sentences.

To ensure that a child with delayed speech or language delay receives help early, it is extremely important to recognize the warning signs of a delay. There are specific communication milestones that children are expected to reach by certain ages, and a child who has missed one or more of these milestones may need extra help to catch up.

Click the link below to learn more about the warning signs of language delay:

View Warning Signs

A Hanen Focus: Empowering Parents and Professionals to Build the Communication Skills of Young Children with Language Delays

As a world-renowned leader in early childhood language intervention, The Hanen Centre’s mission is to help parents, caregivers, early childhood educators and speech-language pathologists promote the best possible communication skills in young children.

The Hanen Centre is unique in that it doesn't just involve parents in their child's early speech therapy intervention - it provides a comprehensive approach that helps parents become their child's most important speech and language teacher.

Hanen’s evidence-based approach to helping parents of children with delayed speech or language delays is rooted in the following three principles:

  • The pivotal role of parents and caregivers – Recognizing the family as the most important element in a child’s life means that parents can and should play a primary role in their child’s speech therapy intervention.
  • The importance of starting early – Children who receive speech therapy intervention early in their lives will have the best results.
  • The power of the “everyday” – Children learn to communicate not by being “taught”, but by participating in everyday conversations and activities with their parents and other important adults.

It Takes Two to Talk® – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children with Language Delays

To help parents of children with speech delays or language delays, as well as the speech-language pathologists who work with these families, The Hanen Centre created an early language intervention program called It Takes Two to Talk. This program shows parents practical ways to build their child’s language skills naturally during everyday routines and activities.

It Takes Two to Talk includes:

  • a “how-to” parent guidebook and companion DVD;
  • a group program for parents, led by Hanen Certified speech-language pathologists; and
  • a training workshop for speech-language pathologists to become certified to lead the It Takes Two to Talk parent program.  

From Research to Real Life: How It Takes Two to Talk® Came To Be

Up until the 1970s, early language intervention involved speech-language pathologists "treating" a child in a therapy room with little or no parent involvement. In the early 1970's, research began to reveal that the involvement of parents in their child's early speech therapy intervention was critical and that the earlier parents were involved, the better the outcome for the child. Research also showed that when parents interact with their children in specific ways that motivate, encourage and support their child's communication, they can make a significant difference to their child's speech and language development.

So the Hanen Centre’s expert speech-language pathologists set to work to create an innovative program, It Takes Two to Talk, which gathered small groups of parents together to teach them how they could assume a primary role in helping their children develop improved communication skills.

The Hanen Centre simplified the research that showed what helps children learn language best by “translating” it into practical communication strategies that parents could easily use with their children during everyday routines and activities. The It Takes Two to Talk Program, guidebook and companion DVD show parents how they can turn any routine – whether it be bath time, bedtime, walking to school or making a sandwich – into an opportunity to connect with their child and to help build his language skills.

In order to make It Takes Two to Talk widely available, The Hanen Centre created a professional development workshop, now offered worldwide, to train speech-language pathologists to implement the It Takes Two to Talk approach in their work settings.

How It Takes Two to Talk® Benefits Parents and Professionals

Both parents and professionals benefit from Hanen’s integrated approach to early language intervention: professionals obtain the tools to support and guide parents, and parents learn how to make communication and interaction a natural part of every family activity and conversation. In this way, parents and speech-language pathologists collaborate so that speech therapy occurs throughout the child’s day, increasing the child’s opportunities to learn and use newly-acquired interaction and communication skills in different situations.

To learn more, click on the links below.