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How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: His Brain

Learning to talk comes naturally to your child, but as many as one in ten children find it difficult to communicate. A problem using language tools can affect a child’s education, social life and future success. Help your child talk and you give him the chance to be the best he can.

Brain injury
No single factor causes all speech and language difficulty. Sometimes, it links back to a problem in brain development. Your child’s brain is a complex and sensitive organ, and damage to one of the areas that support language skills, for example through lack of oxygen at birth, can lead to cerebral palsy. Children with this problem find it hard to control their muscle movements. Speech uses many muscles of the face, including the cheeks, lips, jaw, tongue and roof of the mouth, and speech movements are tiny and rapid.

Brain links
Links between the hundreds of neurons in a newborn baby’s brain develop rapidly during her first three years, and to a lesser extent continue developing until she reaches 10 years of age. The rate of development slows after that time. Language development is far more difficult in adults than in children. Your infant and toddler needs opportunities to listen to you talking, so he can develop his own language tools.

Hearing language
Genetics plays a part in language development, along with the environment. Noam Chomsky’s theory, that humans are ready-programmed to develop language, is widely though not universally accepted. Whether or not he gets it right, children who hear no speech fail to develop their own language skills.

Genie, a child deprived by her father of contact with the rest of her family, failed to learn to talk. After her rescue at the age of 13, she learned some language skills, but never developed the ability to use sophisticated language, and her skills remained at the level of a young child.

How to help
Every child needs help to learn language to the best of her ability. The best way to help your child talk includes providing a home where she feels secure and where a calm atmosphere enables her to hear you talk to her about everything she sees and does.

Let her relax for a time each day, in a quiet room.

Make eye contact with her, and play silly baby games, clapping, dancing and blowing raspberries.

Read or tell bedtime stories and sing nursery rhymes. Repeat the same rhymes and stories many times.

Listen to her when she talks and avoid correcting her speech mistakes. Language takes several years to mature and mistakes are part of the process.

Repeat her sentences in the correct way and she soon learns to copy your speech.

Let your child hear that you value conversation with others in the family and make sure she sees that you read for pleasure.

Provide a home where you value language skills and your child will develop to the best of her ability.

If you feel, though, that she’s finding language difficult, and she’s not doing as well as other children, don’t hesitate to ask for advice from a health professional.