The ability to speak is a combination of anatomical and neurological co-ordination in conjunction with learned responses. From as early an age as possible parents must ‘teach’ children by correlating objects with words. The intricacies of language develop as the child grows and concepts such as verbs, adjectives come into play.
Development of speech
In the first month, baby communicates using guttural sounds and crying. By the second month the child will start to vocalize, making cooing noises and vowel sounds, but continues to communicate mostly by crying.
The third month will see an attempt at communication by squealing and focusing on an individual. Consonant sounds start and the child may repeat combinations of syllables. At this point the child will derive some pleasure from vibrations felt in the lips and be enthusiastic about his/her gurgles.
In the fourth and fifth months the child will be having long ‘conversations’ by combining vowel sounds with consonant sounds. Babbling will increase, especially if the child is spoken to.
The sixth and seventh months will see a marked increase in phonetics. The child will start to babble whilst performing a simple task or having things done to him/her, such as getting dressed.
By the seventh month the child will be using vocalization to attract attention and will start talking louder if ignored.
Around the eighth and ninth months the first words will come forward – Dada and Mamma are usually the first. (Fathers, do not take umbrage if your partner’s name is uttered first! Mamma is actually easier to say than Dada and is often heard a lot more in the first few months of life.) Between the tenth and fifteenth months an infant will start to use meaningful one- and two-word sentences: ‘Dada gone’ and ‘More toast’ are common examples.
By 15 months to two years an improvement is seen, to the point that meaningful sentences will come forward. ‘Look at birdie’ and ‘Pasta on floor’ are clear indications of the child using language accurately.
Between the age of two and three years full sentences are formed, and in the latter stages conversation should be possible.
After three years of age egocentricity arises and the terms T and ‘Me’ increase.
Any problems with hearing or vision will impede development but it is important to remember that these months are only guidelines and leeway either side by at least 2-3 months should be allowed before the child is considered to be surprisingly advanced or delayed.
If your child is falling outside of these basic guidelines, a paediatric assessment is essential to establish hearing, vision and mental ability.
The orthodox world may overlook the importance of nutritional deficiencies in development and a multivitamin/mineral should be considered for children once they are off the bottle or breast.
Ensure that constant communication with both visual and verbal aspects is kept at a maximum through these early formative years.
Do not sound or behave critically if a child is failing to pronounce correctly or is not calling objects by the right name. Criticism can cause introspection and shyness at this early age, much more so than at a later stage.
Stammering and stuttering A stammer is one of several irregularities of speech marked by involuntary halting, repetition of words or smaller segments, transposition or mispronunciation of certain consonants or a combination of any of these defects. A stutter is speech-marked by an intermittent inability to enunciate a phonetic segment of one syllable without repeating it, straining to overcome the block, or both.
Stuttering is common among children until the age of five years, but beyond that the majority of stutterers will carry the difficulty into adulthood. About one per cent of adults have a stutter or stammer. This tends to run in families and is more prevalent in males and left-handed people.
If a stammer or stutter starts in a child, the chances are that it is a habit and is very often associated with stress. An onset in adulthood is generally a sign of an injury or disorder to the central nervous system.
Everybody may stammer under pressure because the neck muscles and particularly the vocal cords become tense and less controlled in an embarrassing or awkward situation. This is not a problem unless it is interfering with social life, in which case treatment is required.
Adult onset of any speech difficulty should be assessed by a neurologist.
A child may benefit from the counselling of an expert in this field, who should also deal with the parents. At a later age, relaxation and meditation techniques should be taught.
Many homeopathic remedies may be utilized, depending on the type of speech difficulty. Review the remedies Stramonium, Agaricus muscarius, Cuprum and Arsenicum. Potency 30 three times a day of a suitable remedy taken for one week may make an impact.
Zinc deficiency may be relevant and can be counteracted by taking 5mg of zinc per foot of height each day before bed for two weeks. If this resolves the problem but it returns, then assume that there is a lack of zinc in the diet or poor absorption. Seek guidance from a nutritional expert.
Test for metal toxicity. Copper and lead have been shown to be a problem and other metals have similar effects.
The Bach flower remedy Trumpet Vine is useful for speech difficulties whilst speaking in public.