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What is Language? What is Speech?

¿Qué es el Lenguaje? ¿Qué es el Habla?

Adolescent Speech and Language Develoment!

Development of Speech and Phonological Skills!

Cognitive or Intellectural Development- Click here

Is My Child Developing On Schedule?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders-NIDCD, children should follow these developmental milestones for speech and language acquisition within these age ranges:
   0 - 12 Months

Reacts to loud sounds.

Turns head toward a sound source.

Watches your face when you speak.

Vocalizes pleasure and displeasure sounds (laughs, giggles, cries, or fusses).

Makes noise when talked to.

Understands "no-no".

Babbles (says "ba-ba-ba" or "ma-ma-ma").

Tries to communicate by actions or gestures.

Tries to repeat your sounds.

12-24 Months

Attends to a book or toy for about two minutes.

Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures.

Answers simple questions nonverbally.

Points to objects, pictures, and family members.

Says two to three words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear).

Tries to imitate simple words.

Enjoys being read to.

Follows simple commands without gestures.

Points to simple body parts such as "nose."

Understands simple verbs such as "eat," "sleep."

Correctly pronounces most vowels and n, m, p, h, especially in the beginning of syllables and short words. Also begins to use other speech sounds.

Says 8 to 10 words (pronunciation may still be unclear).

Asks for common foods by name.

Makes animal sounds such as "moo."

Starting to combine words such as "more milk."

Begins to use pronouns such as "mine."

2 - 3 Years

Knows about 50 words at 24 months.

Knows some spatial concepts such as "in," "on."

Knows pronouns such as "you," "me," "her."

Knows descriptive words such as "big," "happy."

Says around 40 words at 24 months.

Speech is becoming more accurate but may still leave off ending sounds.

Strangers may not be able to understand much of what is said.

Answers simple questions.

Begins to use more pronouns such as "you," "I."

Speaks in two to three word phrases.

Uses question inflection to ask for something (e.g., "My ball?").

Begins to use plurals such as "shoes" or "socks" and regular past tense verbs such as "jumped."

4 - 5  Years

Understands spatial concepts such as "behind," "next to."

Understands complex questions.

Speech is understandable but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words such as "hippopotamus."

Says about 200 - 300 different words.

Uses some irregular past tense verbs such as "ran," "fell."

Describes how to do things such as painting a picture.

Defines words.

Lists items that belong in a category such as animals, vehicles, etc.

Answers "why" questions.

Understands more than 2,000 words.

Understands time sequences (what happened first, second, third, etc.).

Carries out a series of three directions.

Understands rhyming.

Engages in conversation.

Sentences can be 8 or more words in length.

Uses compound and complex sentences.

Describes objects.

Uses imagination to create stories.


The most common speech disorder in students is articulation/phonological deficits. More common in boys, articulation deficits are sure to be a deficit on each speech-language pathologist's caseload. Articulation errors are characterized by substitutions, distortions, deletions, or approximations of speech sounds. Deficits can range from a few errors that do not significantly impede a child's intelligibility to numerous errors that can render a child's speech totally unintelligible. Many young children become frustrated as they attempt to communicate with others and find that they are not understood. Teasing from peers can also affect a child's willingness to speak in and out of the classroom.
Besides not being understood by adults and peers, children who have articulation deficits may have delays in phonemic awareness and reading skills as they struggle to grasp letter sounds. For example, if a child substitutes the /t/ sound for the /k/ sound, he/she will say the word /tea/ for the word /key/.  When he/she tries to use inventive spelling/ writing skills or has to identify which letter a picture begins with, the child will say the words to his/herself, and write the sound that he/she produces to say the picture name.  Hence, a child may write /t/ for /k/. Some children, who become totally bewildered, don't know which sound to chose.  They know that the sound they produce is wrong but do not know how to correct it.  For these children, speech and language services are very important because these children need training very early in speech sound discrimination and correct sound production to avoid the severe reading problems that can arise from this type of speech disorder.


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Speech-language pathologists do more than speech sound correction.  They are the experts to consult if a child/student appears to have memory deficits, can't follow basic commands, has comprehension deficits, does not speak, speaks like a younger child, has weak listening skills, stutters, needs several explanations to complete work, is inattentive, appears to have hearing deficits, hoarse or raspy voice, breathing does not support sound production, has feeding or swallowing problems, and has very limited vocabulary skills.  Consult your building speech-language pathologist, and let her/him suggest when you should refer a child to be screened.  We do not want children to slip between the cracks.  Want more info?  Please submit a question. 
Concerned about your child's articulation errors?  First have your child's hearing tested by an audiologist.  Many children have articulation deficits because they have a hearing impairment that has gone undiagnosed and impedes their ability to hear the correct pronunciation of sounds.  Hearing is fine?  Consult a speech-language pathologist!
How pretend play can build language skills and improve behavior! 

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Play is an important part of language acquisition! 
Young children can have a hearing loss due to hereditary factors, illnesses like viruses, and damage from an outside force.  In the school system, hearing loss can impact a child's ability to learn and the child may be diagnosed with a learning disability that does not exist.  Ear infections (otitis media) can negatively impact a child's progress.  The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association ( provides the following information:

What is otitis media? 

Otitis media is an inflammation in the middle ear (the area behind the eardrum) that is usually associated with the buildup of fluid. The fluid may or may not be infected.  Symptoms, severity, frequency, and length of the condition vary. At one extreme is a single short period of thin, clear, noninfected fluid without any pain or fever but with a slight decrease in hearing ability. At the other extreme are repeated bouts with infection, thick "glue-like" fluid and possible complications such as permanent hearing loss.  Fluctuating conductive hearing loss nearly always occurs with all types of otitis media. In fact it is the most common cause of hearing loss in young children.

Why is otitis media so common in children? 

The eustachian tube, a passage between the middle ear and the back of the throat, is smaller and more nearly horizontal in children than in adults. Therefore, it can be more easily blocked by conditions such as large adenoids and infections. Until the eustachian tube changes in size and angle as the child grows, children are more susceptible to otitis media.

Can hearing loss due to otitis media cause speech and language problems?

Children learn speech and language from listening to other people talk. The first few years of life are especially critical for this development.  If a hearing loss exists, a child does not get the full benefit of language learning experiences.  Otitis media without infection presents a special problem because symptoms of pain and fever are usually not present. Therefore, weeks and even months can go by before parents suspect a problem. During this time, the child may miss out on some of the information that can influence speech and language development.

How can I tell if my child has otitis media?

Even if there is no pain or fever, there are other signs you can look for that may indicate chronic or recurring fluid in the ear:

  • Inattentiveness
  • Wanting the television or radio louder than usual
  • Misunderstanding directions
  • Listlessness
  • Unexplained irritability
  • Pulling or scratching at the ears 

If you suspect a hearing loss in your child, have him/her evaluated immediately. 


What is a Cochlear Implant?



A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly

deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. An implant has the following parts:

  • A microphone which picks up sounds in the environment. 
  • A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
  • A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
  • An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve.

An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.


How does a cochlear implant work?

A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and enjoy a conversation in person or by telephone.

Who gets cochlear implants?

Children and adults who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing can be fitted for cochlear implants. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at the end of 2006, more than 112,000 people worldwide had received implants. In the United States, roughly 23,000 adults and 15,500 children have received them.  

What's the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants?

Children have been wearing hearing aids for many years. Although hearing aids can improve hearing, especially if the hearing loss is mild to moderate, a cochlear implant fosters listening and hearing in a different way. A hearing aid amplifies specific frequencies of speech, or, in other words, it makes sounds louder. A cochlear implant does not make sounds louder; instead it changes sound into electrical energy that stimulates the auditorynerve with a digital signal. This signal is interpreted by the brain as sound with varying pitches. Children with cochlear implants may learn to interpret the signal from a cochlear implant quite differently from the way that children with hearing aids learn to interpret amplified sound. 

What Can Teachers Do In The Classroom To Ensure Success?

1.   Ensure the cochlear implant is on and working

2.   Reduce background noise in the classroom

3.   Use carpeting, drapes, and non-sound reflective surfaces to absorb and reduce  noise

4.   Reduce fan noise, air conditioner noise, and television/radio/computer noise

5.   Close the classroom door to eliminate distracting hallway noise

6.   Use an FM System in the classroom to improve the speech signal in noise and provide the best acoustic environment

7.  Position the child with a cochlear implant to be close to speakers

8.  When speaking with a child, sit on the same side as the child’s cochlear implant

9.   Speak at a slightly slower rate when presenting new information

10. Explain to children what is coming up in discussions or studies

11. Don’t raise your voice or shout; this distorts the speech signal, making it more difficult to understand. Rather, move closer to the child’s cochlear implant.

12. Gain the child’s attention prior to giving directions

13. Allow the child extra time to process auditorally

14. Repeat new vocabulary often and give alternative words when teaching new vocabulary

15. Use a buddy system with projects

16. Use written outlines to help the child follow directions

17. Solicit the assistance of the speech-language pathologist in your building or district 


Information Gathered From an Article in the TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus Web site, Volume 2, Issue 1, September 2005  "Including Children with Cochlear Implants in General Education Elementary Classrooms"  By Joanna L. Stith and Erik Drasgow This work is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution License  
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