Living Well: Helping your baby develop speech, language skills: Memorial Regional Health offers pediatric speech-language therapy |

Living Well: Helping your baby develop speech, language skills: Memorial Regional Health offers pediatric speech-language therapy

Memorial Regional Health staff/For Craig Press
Jenna Harrison, MA, CF-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Memorial Regional Health.
Memorial Regional Health/courtesy
Signs of language disorders in babies and toddlers• Birth to three months — Not smiling or playing with others.• Four to seven months — Not babbling.• Seven months to 1 year — Making only a few sounds. Not using gestures, like waving or pointing.• Seven months to 2 years  — Not understanding what others say.• 1 year to 18 months — Saying only a few words.• 1 1/2 to 2 years — Not putting two words together.• 2 years — Saying fewer than 50 words.• 2 to 3 years — Having trouble playing and talking with other children.• 2 1/2 to three years — Having problems with early reading and writing. For example, your child may not like to draw or look at books.Source:

Nothing is more fun than hearing your baby babble, coo, and make sounds. While it sounds fun, they are working hard to learn and practice the sounds that make up language. There are ways you can enhance your baby’s language development, but mostly, all it takes is a lot of face time with your baby, talking, playing, and interacting. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, your mantra as a parent of a baby is as simple as talk, listen, and respond.

“The more input a baby gets, the more they learn. Their brains are constantly figuring out sounds to create their first word in the first year. The more words they hear, the better their vocabulary,” said Jenna Harrison, MA, CF-SLP, MRH speech-language pathologist with Memorial Regional Health.

Resist the urge to hand your child your iPad or phone for entertainment, because media can’t substitute for face-to-face interaction. While the occasional use of media for toddlers won’t hurt (to avoid a meltdown at the bank, for example), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero media other than video-chatting for babies younger than 18 months. After that, they recommend being selective and allowing no more than one hour per day of high-quality programs for children age five and younger.

“Talk to your baby all the time. I recommend narrating your actions so they gain context of what objects are used for and why you are making certain actions. Talking to babies also teaches them basic conversational norms, like eye contact and taking turns. You can’t learn those skills with a media device,” Harrison added.

ASHA recommends showing excitement when your baby makes noises and responding to their efforts to communicate. Name the objects around you, sing songs, play pat-a-cake, and call attention to what’s around you.

Speech-language milestones

If you are curious about whether your baby is on the right track with speech and language, bring it up at your next check up with your doctor. ASHA provides the following milestones as guidelines by age.

• Babies age four to six months are usually cooing and babbling and making speech-like sounds like pa, ba, and mi. They giggle and laugh, move eyes in the direction of sound and respond to the tone of your voice.

• Babies age seven to 12 months begin babbling in longer strings of sound, pointing at objects, waving, reaching and shaking their heads no. They also recognize their own name and respond, understand simple words like “no” and “come here,” and play peek-a-boo. They say their first word around their first birthday.

“To help develop speech-language skills, read to your baby from birth. This also helps develop print awareness. We take it for granted that squiggly lines on a page are words and that words have meaning. Books also often have more complex language than conversational speech, helping increase vocabulary,” Harrison said.

Pediatric speech-language therapy

Harrison works with children of all ages on a variety of speech and language needs, including language disorders, speech sound disorders, stuttering, voice disorders, and more. With a physician’s referral, she first completes an evaluation, during which she pinpoints strengths and weaknesses, then creates specific goals for each child. Treatment strategies are based on evidence-based practices that have been proven to work.

For more about speech-language services at Memorial Regional Health, visit or call 970-824-5992.


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