Waiting for the First Words

Waiting for the First Words

Has she started talking yet? That is perhaps the most common question asked of an infant’s parents. The utterance of the first word is regarded as a tremendously significant milestone and waiting for it often involves an enormous amount of anxiety.

It is therefore critical to know that the normal range for the onset of expressive language is huge – from 6 months all the way up to 24 months. Some children who are developing beautifully and will eventually have superb language skills do say their first words as early as six or seven months of age. But a lot of children who are developing beautifully and will eventually have superb language skills do not start talking until somewhere near their second birthday. Furthermore, this is determined strictly by a child’s individual rate and pattern of development programmed into her DNA. While you definitely can delay the process by denying a child any exposure to language, there really is nothing you can do to speed it up.

Unfortunately, since this is not particularly well known, there are many people who inadvertently or purposely prey upon the fears of mothers and fathers. A grandparent whose grandchild is still not speaking at 18 months might say, “What is wrong with her? You were talking at eight months!” Some unscrupulous authors have made a lot of money selling books with titles like “Teach Your Baby to Talk.”

So as difficult as it may be in certain circumstances, parents simply need to be patient when waiting for their child’s first words. This will preserve their sanity, maybe save them some big bucks, and also give them a chance to recall a cherished memory of a quiet time when their child becomes an incessant chatterbox later on.

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at drmike@romproll.com.