Key messages for professionals

Speech, language and communication mesasges for 0-1  years

  • communication and interaction with the infant starts before birth
  • infants enjoy being spoken to in a sing song language called parentese. This way of speaking mimics musical patterns of intonation, melody, rhythm and beat – all of which support language acquisition
  • the first three years of the child’s life is when the brain grows the most rapidly. The child’s experiences during these first three years have a significant impact throughout their life
  • the new born infant seeks interaction from the moment they are born. Their skills are strengthened as their care-givers respond positively to the infant’s communicative attempts
  • the very first communication attempts between parent and infant are through looking, touch and talking. The infant cannot 'talk' back to their parents at this early stage however they can 'talk' through their facial expression and body movements
  • infants have different cries which care givers need to interpret. They may have one cry for hunger, another for discomfort and another for tiredness. Constant misinterpretation or inconsistency in meeting the child’s needs may result in infant mental health issues, attachment difficulties and impaired communication development
  • infants who are spoken to are more likely to feel safe and secure. This has a positive impact on their future friendships and interactions with other people
  • positive interaction, talking, singing and reading from before birth helps the infant to make sense of the world around them. These interactions contribute to literacy skills such as reading and writing once the child is at school
  • strong attachment to a care-giver is vital for the development of speech, language and communication skills
  • infants enjoy books. Books encourage early literacy skills, help an infant to match words with pictures and help nurture narrative (story telling) skills
  • infants will remember music that they hear in the womb and are born with music preferences. Some infants will respond better to classical music, others pipes and drums or chart music
  • infants will smile between 4-6 weeks old
  • infants can make different noises from birth. This noise making will become more sophisticated as they practice and refine their skills
  • infants experiment with sound and babble before they start using words. They will babble more if adults imitate their sounds and have 'pretend' conversations with them.

Parents have access to developmental guidelines relating to early communication skills through The Red Book, Ready Steady Baby, and Ready Steady Toddler. But, it is essential that Early Years workers are alert to normal developmental stages and possible indicators of a need for additional support.

The professionals working with a family should make a joint assessment of a child’s needs. The lead professional can take forward any identified needs for support (see Getting It Right For Every Child).

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