Q&A: First word...
My 14-month-old daughter has not yet started talking- she doesn't even use made-up sounds or babble. I can't wait for her first word! Is this at all normal?

Kerry Wallace (occupational therapist) answers:

Although there is a general timeline for the development of speech and language, and many babies of 14 months are developing a vocabulary of one- or two-word sentences, there is a wide range of
typical development. Using words to communicate is one of the milestones parents watch out for, but there are many foundation skills that precede “mama” – the sound uttered in most languages as a first word.

From the time they are just a few hours old, infants show they have the ability to socially interact with adults, as mother and newborn gaze into each other’s eyes. From a few months of age social behaviour can be observed in a variety of ways. Through your baby’s ability to coordinate gaze, facial expression, gestures and sounds she communicates her desires and feelings.

It requires time and commitment to encourage this. Choose times during the day when she is in a calm, happy state. Adopt a position at her eye level, watch her with a warm smile on your face and make soothing, enticing sounds and gestures. Imitate everything she does or utters exactly, but using bigger gestures, facial expressions and more extreme variation of tone and volume of voice. Wait for her responses, before imitating her again, keeping up the “conversation”.

More concerning than your daughter’s lack of words is the delay in babbling and vocalisations. Children who have had ear infections are susceptible to hearing loss, so it is recommended that this is checked out before you go any further. Without the ability to hear, language will not develop. You can do a simple test by ringing a bell on either side of her head to see if she turns to the sound. If you are still unsure, a hearing test by an audiologist would help put your mind at rest. If she gets the all clear, it is probably time to consult an occupational or speech and language therapist to
discuss your concerns.

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