Language from birth to 3
Babies are born with brains that have a huge capacity for learning and most brain development takes place in the first two to three years. Their brains are primed to learn language and learning to talk is one of the most complex skills a child will learn. Babies are social beings and love to communicate with people. Before they can use words they communicate through gestures. They make eye contact, they wiggle their noses and smile. Holding their arms out is one way of expressing their physical and emotional needs and often means “I want to be picked up”. Language skills begin soon after birth and develop into an explosion of words as babies become toddlers. Parents have an important role to play in supporting their baby’s early language and this begins with attunement. This is about tuning in and responding to a baby’s first sounds and facial expressions as well as their body language. Having conversations with babies as early as possible will support language and also social skills. The more words a child hears, the better a talker that child becomes. Both the quantity of words and also the quality of what is said influence the ability to be a good communicator.
According to findings from the Department for Education (30th July 2013) that in state-funded primary schools one of the three most frequent issues for children with special needs is in relation to Speech, Language and Communication needs where 30.6% of children have a primary need compared with those with Moderate Learning Difficulty ( 20.3%) and those with Behaviour, Emotional & Social Difficulties (18.4%). This suggests that support for young children’s language development is imperative if transient difficulties are to be reduced.
The Every Child a Talker programme was aimed at promoting children’s language and communication skills from birth and had a particular emphasis on working with parents. Part of the programme’s many successes have been local projects in pre-school settings, Children’s Centres and schools that have increased adult confidence working with the youngest children and shown a reduction in the number of children at risk of language delay.