For a child, learning to communicate involves many steps. There are some skills that a child must develop before being able to use speech and language as a functional way to communicate. Here are five pre-linguistic skills your child must achieve:
- Least one other person can pay attention to the same object. How is this skill demonstrated? Your child is able to follow eye gazing, pointing, or other gestures from another person (a communication partner) which leads to both paying attention to the same object.
- Shared Enjoyment: This is your child’s ability to share an event or feeling with another person. An example of this skill being demonstrated: You and your child see something funny on TV. Your child laughs and looks at you to laugh with them and confirm you also enjoyed.
- Intent: This is your child’s ability to purposefully use different forms of communication (verbal or non-verbal) to send their messages to other people. How is this skill demonstrated? Your child uses verbal (like saying “look”, “watch”, “come here”, etc.) or non-verbal cues (pointing, gestures, etc.) to communicate clear messages to others about their wants and needs.
- Persistence: This is your child’s ability to continue attempting to communicate with someone else when their message has not been received yet. This shows that your child is aware of their message properly reaching their communication partners. An example of this skill being demonstrated: Your child is calling out to you. If you don’t turn around and acknowledge they called you, your child attempts to gain your attention by poking you and repeats what they were trying to say until they know you received their message.
- Social Referencing: This is your child’s ability to use cues and messages from the people around them to help guide how to act appropriately in the current situation. An example of this skill being demonstrated: Your child looks to you to see if it is ok to crawl down the stairs. Your child should be aware of any cues you are giving off (such as a scared facial expression).