Speech and Hearing

Communication skill is very important for overall development of a child. Speech development starts from the age of 0-5 years. Speech development is a complex process. Here we have listed the prerequisites of speech development. Read on.

Speech and Hearing

In every child, the development of speech and language is an ongoing process, beginning at birth.  The period from 0-5 years is recognized as important for all aspects of development in a child, including 'hearing', 'language' and 'speech'. 

Each month, the baby matures in each of these three interwoven areas, and gradually learns the skill of communication with those around him.  The development of communication skill is essential for every child's emotional, social and intellectual development. 

Although it may seem that babies just develop speech naturally, without trying to put in much effort, acquisition of 'language' for communication through speech is an extraordinarily complex process.  Most parents are not even aware of how the process unfolds.  They frequently do not realise the importance of their role in helping child develop adequate communication skills.  Some developmental skills, such as crawling, sitting, standing and walking seem to occur without much help.  "Learning to talk" must be taught by parents and adults around the child.  Without the right kind of help at the right time, the child may learn the communication skill later, improperly, or not at all.  If parents can familiarize themselves with the process of communication development and how children learn to talk, they can offer great help in this important aspect of growth and development.  To familiarise the parent with the process in this area, we begin with listing down the pre-requisites for normal development of speech and language for communication.

1. Normal Hearing:

Speech and hearing is acquired primarily through hearing.  The maturation of a child's hearing occurs systematically in early months and the child gradually learns to comprehend the spoken language.  Then, through initiation and adult speech, the child learns to express himself through speech.

2. Stimulating Environment:

A stimulating environment, i.e., an environment which provides adequate verbal interactions with family members and peers, is necessary.

3. Normal Intelligence:

To acquire language, a child must have the mental capacity to reason, to make associations and generalizations, and to store items in memory.  In other words, a child can talk only as well as he can think.

4. Normal Coordination of Body Movements:

Since speech is a very rapid and complex motor art, it requires finely tuned neurological regulation and normal coordination of body movements controlled by the brain.

5. Normal functioning of Voice Organs:

Normal structures and functioning of lips, tongue, palate and voice box (larynx) is necessary for speech.

6. Adequate physical and Emotional Health:

Adequate physical and emotional health of the child is necessary to support the growth of language.  Physical and emotional illnesses can affect, restrict and distort relationships with family members.

A number of communicative disorders are known to result if any of the above pre-requisites are not fulfilled.  A variety of factors could prevent the availability of these pre-requisites.  (These will be discussed in detail in the upcoming articles).  However, timely intervention can prevent the limiting effects of such disorders.  In case of any doubts, consult an audiologist and speech-language pathologist at the earliest.