Did you know?
Children start talking around 12 months of age, but there are many language milestones that occur prior to speaking. See below for some examples.
Before speaking, children make babbling sounds when they’re only a few months old that get more and more word-like as they near their first birthday.
Children also participate in back-and-forth games (e.g., blowing raspberries, peek-a-boo, etc.), joint attention (i.e., looking in the same direction as a caregiver), and gestures (e.g., pointing). These preverbal skills support later conversational turn-taking and interaction.
If your child is not meeting any of these milestones, seek an evaluation right away. You do not want to “wait and see.”
The evaluation process for a developmental language disorder will depend on the age and needs of your child. However, most children will be administered both standardized and non-standardized assessments. Standardized assessments are norm-referenced, meaning the test developers administered the test to a sample of children to get an idea of how children the same age as your child performed on the test. A typical language test may include a variety of pictures and spoken directions given to your child. Your child may be asked to point to certain pictures or respond verbally to demonstrate comprehension of a task.
As the caregiver/guardian, you may also be asked to fill out a checklist about your child’s language use at home, including the use of vocabulary, grammar, and complete sentences within a variety of communicative purposes (e.g., asking, commenting, responding). I will also do what is called a language sample to evaluate your child’s use of language in functional, everyday activities, such as while talking or telling stories. As I do this, I will take note of any vocabulary or grammatical difficulties I notice, in order to make a specific treatment plan for your child.
Treatment will also vary depending on the age and needs of your child. I may use a play-based or picture/story-based approach to engage your child in language-rich activities to promote development of their target language skills.
For example, if your child is struggling with grammar or sentence structure, I may use pictures to help your child make a sentence about what a person is doing or did in a picture, while targeting certain grammatical structures (e.g., verbs, pronouns, etc.) If your child does not use a target from appropriately (e.g., past tense-ed), I will model the correct form by recasting (saying what your child said in the appropriate way.
To improve your child’s vocabulary skills, I may help your child talk about and describe words or pictures. This will expand your child’s understanding of the meaning of the target word and its relationship to other words. I may also help your child tell or retell stories by implementing tools that teach each part of a story (e.g., character, setting, problem, feeling, action, ending, and ending feeling).
All of these skills will be scaffolded and supported using strategies that have been empirically studied for the development of language within children who have developmental language disorders. Children with developmental language disorders often need additional, repeated, meaningful exposures to their specific language targets, in order to learn them.