As a speech therapist with young children, we often coach parents through helping their 2 month old communicate. Many parents are confused by this and often ask “How is my child communicating without words?”. When talking about a newborn baby, that there are two forms of nonverbal cues: engagement and disengagement cues. Engagement cues often include eye contact towards the caregiver, smiling, reaching, or eyes wide open. Disengagement cues could include crawling away, lack of eye contact, or hands over eyes. Eye contact is often included in this conversation, since this is a very powerful way for a child to communicate with their caregivers from the time they are born. As this child grows, eye contact is expected to continue to grow and develop into an effective form of communication.
As your child develops, their nonverbal language may become more obvious. This is the stage prior to developing words, but the need to communicate their wants and needs is important. Fore example, a baby sitting in their highchair may wipe their hands on the tray or throw their food to communicate that they are all done. When their parent takes the food away or gives more, that child is starting to learn how to effectively communicate. As your child enters their toddler years, they may start to link these nonverbal communication skills with words. We know that it is easier for toddlers to learn large motor movements (reaching, pointing) than more fine motor skills such as making sounds or words. With this in mind, toddlers may rely on nonverbal language to communicate their basic wants and needs. Some of these skills may be obvious such as a child pointing to an object that they want such as a food item. This may come before the child can use the word to specifically request that food.
We will work with your family on a variety of different strategies to help build nonverbal language before expecting the child to use their words. While working with children 0-3, I encourage parents to give choices to encourage their child to use their nonverbal skill of pointing or reaching. This is teaching the child that they must do something in order to get something. At Spectrum Pediatrics, we will work with parents to identify what their child is communicating and how to decrease frustration and help with overall language development.