• Hearing Consonants in Your Child's Babbling? That's a Good Sign

    All we can say is encourage your toddler's "kadaldalan" by reading to him out loud!
    by Rachel Perez .
Hearing Consonants in Your Child's Babbling? That's a Good Sign
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  • By the time you give birth, you already know all of the milestones your baby should be hitting (we also hope you keep in mind that children don't always develop in the same pace.) At 12 months, you can't wait to hear her first word. It comes as a big relief when she says it  — huge milestone! — but when her first year comes and goes and the "first words" don't come, you're obviously worried. 

    Experts have previously identified that children who have difficulty identifying letters is a red flag for possible reading challenges. However, this marker can only be observed when the child reaches age 3 to 5. Now, a new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, "support a connection" between the sounds your toddler makes, even if they're just gibberish and "letter identification skills, which is a strong predictor of later word reading skills" later in his life.

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    Researchers from Florida State University recorded the babble of children ages 9 to 30 months as they interacted with their primary caregiver. They were observing for consonant-vowel ratio, which is a demonstrated measure of speech complexity. 

    After six years, the researchers checked up on the kids again and examined their ability to identify letters, which is already a known marker for reading literacy. They found that the kids who produced more complex babbling as toddlers, the better they recognized specific letters. The children also performed better in a later reading test.

    The summary of the study also stated, "While more work is needed to explore these relations in children with varying skill levels, there are robust clinical implications from this work. First, children who are late to develop consonants in their early babble may be at risk for a slower acquisition of later language skills, including vocabulary and letter knowledge.

    "Second, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are on the front lines of early identification of children who may be at risk for reading difficulties. Frequently, SLPs are the first professionals to work with a child who has had delayed development of speech and language. As such, the role of the SLP in the prevention, identification, and treatment of children at risk is paramount."

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    Again, while there is further research to be done, the study's promise is the potential to flag reading impairments early in a child's life. "We are moving closer to establishing behavioral measures that may help us identify reading disabilities sooner," co-author of the study Kelly Farquharson said.

    Early intervention is crucial when it comes to speech and language delay. This study shows that SLPs may get a chance to assess whether something is a warning sign or not of reading difficulty before age 3.

    As we wait if this study's results actually become measurement or assessment tools in the real world, there's a lot you can do to boost your child's speech and language skills as soon as he is born. You don't even have to wait for nine months to encourage your child to babble. They should be making all sorts of sounds as early as four months. Remember: for your baby to attempt to make sounds, he or she has to hear them from you. Encourage our child to babble by interacting and developing social connections with your little one.

    Read out loud to him is the first big step. Not only are language and speech skills essential in school success, but a love for reading also offers several developmental benefits apart from cognitive, such as developing creativity and imagination.

    If your baby isn't smiling, cooing or laughing when you interact with him or if he isn't paying attention to sounds, have his hearing checked to rule out hearing impairment.

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