pre linguistic skills

Pre Linguistic Skills : Everything you need to know

Pre Linguistic Skills : Everything you need to know

This blog talks about pre linguistic skills. These skills are the foundation of language development.

 What are pre linguistic skills ?

Pre linguistic skills are those skills which develop before a child learns to talk. Hence, it is a way of communicating without words. It includes skills such as gestures, imitation, facial expressions and joint attention. These skills form the basis for language development.

Pre – linguistic skills – 

The basic pre – linguistic skills are as follows –

  1. Eye contact : It is a very important pre – linguistic skill. Babies start to make eye contact around 6 – 8 weeks.  It helps babies to recognise faces and voices. It also helps to understand things around them.

  2. Responding : Babies start responding to facial expressions and voices by smiling at you or cooing. Laughing and squeals emerge around 3 – 4 months of age. This indicates that babies begin to understand their reactions means something.

  3. Purposeful noises : Babies begin to make purposeful noises around 4 months. They have established the understanding that if they make a particular sound, their caregiver will smile at them.

  4. Turn taking : This develops when the parents make a sound or smile at the child. Then they wait for the child to respond. Eventually, the parent and the babies start to take turns with actions and sounds.

  5. Imitation : Babies start to imitate sounds or actions around 6 months of age. For example, you may say ‘ma ma’. The baby also repeats ‘ma ma’. They also start copying your actions like clapping.

  6. Joint attention : Joint attention means interacting with the same object. It means the child first looks at the object, then at the caregiver and again at the object. For example, both of you are looking at the teddy bear. The child first looks at the teddy bear. He/she will then look at the caregiver and back at the teddy. It is the unsaid version of ‘do you see what I see’. It emerges around 9 months of age.

Red flags in development of  pre – linguistic skills –

The following points indicate that there are difficulties in the development of pre – linguistic skills –

  • Fleeting eye contact.

  • Social smile is absent.

  • Does not use different sounds to indicate hunger, happiness, sadness.

  • Does not babble.

  • Copying of facial expressions is absent.

  • Using voice or sounds to get attention is absent.

  • Does not enjoy others participating in their play.

Problems because of pre linguistic difficulties

A child may have the following problems due to pre – linguistic difficulties – 

  1. Comprehension of language (receptive language).

  2. Use of expressive language.

  3. They may show behavioral problems such as temper tantrums.

  4. Social skills are also affected.

  5. There is a delay in use of words to communicate.

  6. Attention and concentration are affected.

  7. It also affects play skills.

Activities to improve pre – linguistic skills 

The following activities can help in the development of pre – linguistic skills –

  1. To improve eye contact, games such as peek a boo can be played with children. You can simply cover your eyes and then open them again while making sounds. You can also hide objects the child is familiar with. This can include his toys or bottles. You can also play with balloons to improve eye contact. You can throw an inflated balloon up and then catch it. This will improve the child’s eye contact. You can also use bubbles for eye contact improvement.

  2. To enhance imitation skills, action songs can be done with the babies. Action songs also promote listening skills and help them follow instructions. Sing songs to the babies to encourage imitation. Clapping games can be played with them. They should also be encouraged to copy the actions of daily chores. A few examples are switching off the light. You can also encourage them to keep the toy back in the basket.

  3. To work on turn taking, many activities can be done. You can play pass the ball, taking turns. You can also do block building to promote turn taking. Another activity involves talking to the child and waiting for them to respond. This also helps in enhancing turn taking. To know more about turn taking, click here

  4. Talk to your baby as you feed or bathe your baby. Use simple language while talking to the baby.

  5. Indulge in stop and pause to improve the baby’s joint attention. This involves pausing before giving an item or resuming an action so the child will look at you. Other activities include mirror activities and face – to – face games. These games include peek a boo or tickling. You can also play bouncing on the knees. You can also bring a preferred object in front of the child. Gradually move it to encourage child to shift his gaze to keep looking at the object.

Why is intervention needed if pre – linguistic skills are delayed ?

If pre – linguistic skills are delayed, speech therapy should be taken. Speech therapy can help in the following ways –

  • Help the child develop play skills

  • Aid in the development of social skills

  • Develop the ability to understand language

  • Enhance turn taking skills

  • Improve joint attention

  • Help improve imitation skills

  • Improve their ability to express themselves

Learn more about activities to improve attention skills in children.  Video below!

Harshita Malani
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