Sunday, January 25, 2009

Communicating With Your Baby

What Should I Do?

Your baby is listening to everything you say, and storing it away at an incredible rate. Instead of using "baby" words, teach your child the correct names for people, places, and things. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep it simple.

Your baby may still be communicating with gestures such as pointing to something he or she wants. Gestures are OK, but you should use a running commentary such as, "Do you want a drink?" (when he or she points to the refrigerator), then wait for a response. Then say, "What do you want? Milk? OK, let's get some milk." Such behavior encourages your baby to respond and participate in conversations. But don't frustrate your baby by withholding food or drink waiting for a response.

Between 15 and 18 months, your baby will probably begin to enjoy language games that ask him or her to identify things, such as: "Where's your ear?" and "Where is Mommy?" Your child's vocabulary will grow quickly, but pronunciation isn't likely to keep pace. Resist the temptation to correct your baby's pronunciation; most babies mispronounce their words. Instead, emphasize the correct pronunciation in your response.
Should I Be Concerned?

Some babies don't talk until their second birthday and choose instead to get by with the use of gestures and sounds. Vocabulary varies widely at this age, too; some babies say dozens of words, others only a few.

Most babies this age have these communication milestones in common:

* speak about 15 words by 18 months
* put two words together to form a sentence by age 2
* follow simple directions by age 2

Hearing problems may become more apparent during this stage because of the emergence of speech. Don't hesitate to report any concerns you have to your doctor immediately, especially if you feel your child is not babbling or responding to your speech patterns. Sometimes chronic ear infections can leave kids with excessive fluid buildup that can interfere with normal hearing. Special tests can check for hearing loss.

Some parents worry that a toddler who is not speaking may have autism. Children with autism and related conditions may have delayed speech or other problems with communication, but poor social interactions, and limited or restricted interests or patterns of behavior are also hallmarks of the disorder. If you have any questions or concerns about your child's development, talk with your doctor.


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