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The Importance of Pre-linguistic skills in Delayed Expressive Language

Did you know that pre-linguistic skills are some of the most important for speech development? Many parents don’t realize the importance of these skills and may not even know what they are. This post will discuss what pre-linguistic skills are and why they are so important. We’ll also provide tips on how to help your child work on these skills. So, read on to learn more!

One parent talked to a speech therapist about her child’s delayed expressive language. She asked her why her child’s receptive language skills seemed to be developing just fine, but her expressive language lagged behind. The therapist explained that the child’s pre-linguistic skills were not as developed as they should be. This led the parent to ask, “What are pre-linguistic skills?”

In this article we will discuss:

Delayed Expressive Language Skills in Kids

What are pre-linguistic skills?

Pre-linguistic skills are the building blocks for language development. These skills include things like attention, listening, and vocalization. Anything that happens before a child says

their first words fall under pre-linguistic skills.

The 9 important prelinguistic skills for Speech Development

Before your child ever learns to speak, they will be learning important prelinguistic skills. This will help them communicate. These skills include being able to understand and follow directions. It also includes pointing to what they want, imitating words and sounds, and more. Here are the nine most important prelinguistic skills for speech development. By nurturing these skills in your child, you can help set them up for a successful future in communication!

1. Joint attention

Joint attention is when two people are sharing attention on something. If you are looking at a book with your child and pointing to the pictures, you are engaging in joint attention. Joint attention is important! It helps children learn how to communicate with others. Children, even adults, need to sustain enough attention to gain the interest of others. Joint attention also helps in learning new vocabulary more easily.

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2. Listening

Listening is an important skill for speech development. If a child cannot listen, they will have difficulty understanding language. Listening also helps children learn to pay attention and follow directions.

3. Vocalization

Vocalization is the production of sounds using the voice. This includes things like cooing, babbling, and crying. Vocalization is important! It helps children learn how to make different sounds with their mouths. It also helps them practice using their vocal cords for speech.

4. Gestures

Gestures are movements of the hands, arms, or body that communicate meaning. For example, waving goodbye or pointing to something. Gestures are important because they help children communicate without using words.

5. Eye contact

Eye contact is when two people look at each other’s eyes while talking. It is important because it helps with communication and social skills. It also helps children learn to pay attention.

6. Imitation

Imitation is when a child copies the sounds, words, or actions of another person. Imitation is important! This is one of the first steps toward language development. It helps children learn new vocabulary and words to use to communicate. It also helps them practice using their motor skills.

7. Object permanence

Object permanence is the understanding that an object still exists even when it is out of sight. If you put a toy under a blanket, your child understands that the toy is still there even though they can’t see it. Object permanence is important! It helps children understand that things still exist even when they can’t see them. This is an important concept for language development. Children need to learn that when things are not in front of them, it is not totally gone.

8. Cause and effect

Cause and effect is the understanding that one action can lead to another. For example, if a child pushes a button, they understand that the button will make a sound. Cause and effect is important! It helps children understand how the world works and how their actions can affect others. This will also translate to learning how to act responsibly and make good decisions.

9. Turn-taking

Turn-taking is when two people take turns talking or doing an activity. For example, if you are playing a game with your child, you will take turns taking pieces out of the game board. Turn-taking is important! It helps children learn how to communicate and how to share.

Why are pre-linguistic skills important?

Pre-linguistic language skills are important. They lay the foundation for all future language development. If a child struggles with any of these skills, it can be difficult for them to learn to speak properly later on. Thus, it can lead to delayed expressive language. Additionally, many of these skills are closely related. For example, if a child has difficulty with imitation, they may also have difficulty with turn-taking.

Receptive Language Development

It can also lead to problems in pragmatic language skills. If children do not learn how to properly communicate and interact with others. If you are concerned about your child’s speech development, it is important to talk to a speech-language pathologist. They can help assess your child’s skills and provide guidance on how to improve them.

How can you help your child develop pre-linguistic skills?

There are many ways you can help your child develop pre-linguistic skills at home! When children develop their pre-linguistic skills, their language skills will develop with it! Here are some activities you can do at home to improve your child’s receptive and expressive language as well as pragmatic language skills!

1. Read stories and sing songs together

Provide them with opportunities to listen to language. You can talk to them often, read stories together, and sing songs. Reading gives you and your child time together to bond while also providing them with language exposure. Singing songs can give a rich opportunity to follow commands and learn new words.

2. Make eye contact when talking

When you are talking to your child, make sure to make eye contact. This will help them understand the importance of eye contact and how it is used in communication. Additionally, it will help them learn to pay attention.

3. Imitate their sounds and actions

When they make a sound or gesture, imitate it back to them. This helps them understand that their sounds and actions are meaningful. Additionally, it provides them with an opportunity to practice imitating others. Songs such as Old Mcdonald, Pat-a-Cake, and Row Your Boat are great for this. Movements at home such as wiping the table, cooking, or sweeping can also be opportunities to imitate actions.

4. Play turn-taking games

Play games that involve taking turns, such as Simon Says. This will help them understand how to take turns and how to share. Bubbles can also be a fun way to take turns and practice eye contact. While playing with bubbles, make sure to put the bubbles near the eyes to initiate eye contact. It is also nice to practice turns explicitly. Saying “my turn” or “your turn” will teach your child boundaries. It is the earliest form of communication and pragmatic language skills.

5. Provide opportunities for them to practice

Give them opportunities to practice pre-linguistic skills. This can be done through games, activities, and everyday interactions. For example, you can play peek-a-boo to help them understand object permanence. You can also give them time to practice new skills, such as imitating sounds and gestures.

Improve your child's pragmatic language skills

Why is my child having a hard time developing prelinguistic skills?

Pre-linguistic skills are important for all aspects of future language development. If your child is having difficulty with any of these skills, make sure to talk to a speech-language pathologist. It is either a delay in development or your child may need help to improve their skills.

There are many ways to help your child at home. So, make sure to talk to a speech-language pathologist about what activities would be most beneficial for your child. Receptive and expressive language will develop when their prelinguistic skills develop too! It is important to seek professional help as early as possible to help your child reach their fullest potential!

When should you seek professional help?

If you think you're child is struggling, don't hesitate to ask for help. Your child will thank you for helping them seek their voice. A speech-language pathologist will help you or your child's language development. Talk to one! They can help assess your child’s skills and provide guidance on how to improve them. Most importantly, it is better to seek help as soon as you notice the problem.

Assessment for Children with Delayed Receptive and Expressive Language

You might notice that your child is not developing these skills. They might have difficulty with any of these skills, it is important to seek professional help. A speech-language pathologist can help assess your child’s needs. They will also see all the factors that influence their speech development. This should not be confused with selective mutism, as selective mutism and speech therapy do not typically cross paths. Selective mutism is often a psychological response, while a language disorder is not thought to be a psychological response.

Treatment for Children with Delayed Expressive Language

Treatment for children with delayed expressive language generally focuses on developing communication skills. Speech and language therapists may work with the child on a one-to-one basis, in a group setting, or with the family as a whole. The type of treatment will be tailored to the individual child's needs.

One common approach is to focus on teaching the child how to use nonverbal communication, such as gesture and facial expression, to supplement their verbal communication. Another approach is to teach the child alternative ways to communicate, such as sign language or picture exchange communication systems (PECS).

The most important thing is to provide the child with opportunities to practice using their new skills. This may involve play activities, everyday activities, or structured speech and language therapy sessions. With time and practice, most children with delayed expressive language make significant progress in their ability to communicate.

A speech therapist will provide personalized tips to help your child based on their individual needs. By working on pre-linguistic skills, you can help your child develop their receptive and expressive language. It will also improve their pragmatic language skills! These are important skills that will help them communicate effectively and interact with others.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech development, a speech-language pathologist will help. They can assess your child’s skills and provide guidance on how to improve them. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.

I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.



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