Speech Development

More than two thousand five hundred years ago, Heraclitus wrote Panta rhei, panta chorei – Everything flows, everything changes. And this is true to present days – development is in change. We all agree that human development is the most complex. Starting from birth, a person gets to know himself and the world through the information and stimuli around him. Upgrading reflex responses – reactions to external or internal influences in infants to a conscious individual is a really complex process that has two dimensions – its natural development and the influence of the environment of which we are part – parents and guardians. In order to be as successful as possible, we the adults, need to be aware of the development process itself and how it can be influenced.

One very important factor in human development is speech.

After the completion of the development of the baby’s hearing in the mother’s womb /the 7th month approximately/, the cognitive development of various sounds and speech begins, reacting to the mother’s voice the most. Children are born with a tendency to listen to speech compared to nonverbal sounds.

Babies are born with a “bias for listening to speech” versus nonlinguistic sounds.

We are writing this document to clarify with parents and professionals about:

  1. Understanding and recognizing the early stages of speech development.
  2. Clarification of typical behavior that you observe today in your child, which may be a sign of speech formation.
  3. Show you how you can help your child move from phase to phase in a home environment.

It is possible that your child needs a little help to start communicating with you.

We know from pedagogy that there are two areas in the development of speech: Comprehension of speech and expression – speaking – use of speech and its alternative forms of communication “

There are two main areas of language:

  • Receptive language (understanding): Comprehension of language.
  • Expressive language (using language): The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.

Communication is an emotional process.

It is difficult for me to refrain from mentioning the case of a parent with a teaching profession whose child is in the spectrum. I don’t know if they turned to me for help to adjust their watch with how I approach and conduct my classes or simply because he was looking for help. I tend to think it’s the first, because she never called back to share the result or effect of continuing her work at home. This is completely irrelevant. I was shocked by her comment that my behavior at work was too expressive and emotional.

I believe that emotional connection and empathy is a prerequisite for communication.

Children on the spectrum usually have different difficulties in expressing emotions and empathy compared to their peers. Some believe that the expression of emotions is too minimal. We believe in the following: they are definitely much more emotional, but have difficulty defining emotion and communicating it with us. Whichever is true in both of these, emotionality is a key element in nonverbal children’s speech development.

The challenge for individuals with autism is that they usually display different empathy levels than their typically developing peers.

The important thing for this stage is to know that the child goes through eight important stages until the words are uttered.

Eye contact

Eye contact comes first.

The first step to verbalization is the emotional connection that comes from the eye contact and the response with a smile to our smile. On the second day of their life, the babies prefer to look with open eyes.

The baby begins to see us, to distinguish silhouettes, to look at the spot, which in most often is mom. This is how it learns to recognise us. The first smile and reaction to speech is the first communication of love and recognition between a child and a parent. This mutual contact is an expression of feelings of security, belonging and happiness. These babies will copy and respond to facial expressions, to looks and even to eyebrow movements. This silent exchange of emotions is the first step in the communication.

The eye contact is the first phase in the development of communication.

From my work with many families, I can conclude that the use of positive emotions and understanding encourages the child in its attempts to contact you.

Do not force eye contact!

The eye contact is not 100 percent necessary for full communication.

For children with visual impairment, try the following game: Instead of forcing the child to look you in the eye, stick a red sticker on your nose.

The colour red is used in signs that need to catch our attention because this is the slowest colour on the spectrum and is processed last. We can use that to our advantage.

After the child notices the sticker on your nose, turn to the mirror and let the child observe the reflection of your face in the mirror.


To the surprise of many parents, baby’s drooling, bubbling and spitting is also a stage in the speech development (from birth to 5 months in typically developing babies). It’s like warming up before the speaking process.

For the first time in its life, the baby gets a different feeling – it can produce saliva, can control breathing and movement of its lips, its tongue and cheeks. Thus, the baby develops the motor skills of its mouth, of its throat.

Children who are stagnant at this stage spit profusely.

During this phase, children are reluctant to make sounds that resemble or imitate words. It often seems as if they are not aware about what is happening around them, even when they are not engaged in making bubbles.

Don’t worry about what they are doing, as this is a part of the speech development process. In this way, they learn to control salivation and the combination of it with breathing and movement of the lips and cheeks. It gives them pleasure, so don’t try to change it.

To help the child go through this phase, you need to add a new element to the game.

This can be music, involving various instruments or sounds from nature. Adding an audio stimulator can expand the child’s interests, especially if it is in an activity that is fun for it.

Another activity that can help is adding a face gymnastics while spitting against the mirror or glass. Stand next to thr baby and grimace in the mirror. If you make contact with your help /you move your lips or cheeks/ achieving different grimaces.

In typically developing babies, the brain begins to organize coordination activities related to hand movements and monitoring eye movements. About 3 to 5 months, the baby begins to put its hands into mouth.

For a while, its mouth will be the most preferred place to touch and play with. Just imagine how complex this coordination is!

Very soon the baby will switch to solid food. Chewing and swallowing is a part of the development of the fine motor skills.

The brain processes new information and creates new connections and associations through the sensation of the new forms and matter in the mouth.

If you feel that your child is stagnant at this stage, you can help it by letting it try different tastes, materials and temperatures.

For children who are not interested in a variety of foods and are very picky about trying something new, you can immerse it’s favorite toy in something like a new taste in the form of cream or sauce. Put it in the freezer. Encourage the baby to try … don’t give up on the child’s first refusal to accept the new game.


A little later, the baby begins to bite his hands or anything that gets into its mouth. In this way the little child gets to know itself, gets to know the world around it. It bites and likes or dislikes. 


Gradually it learns to pronounce sounds. At first they may be a simple shrill scream, they may be just melodious sounds, which will gradually become an imitation of your speech, the sounds it hears from you, or later it will start uttering words like mama and dada. Every spoken sound is aimed at the development of speech. Among other things, the child discovers his voice, listens to it and gets to know it. And so comes the moment of the first word, spoken consciously by your child.

Yes, the first word brings us great joy, but immediately after that the child begins to understand the meaning of the words, which is very important. But it also learns to incorporate emotions into its speech. The little person learns that words like “give”, “more”, “hug” are important – give me the toy, I want more milk, hug me and etc. Along with this, the child discovers that with the change in the tone of the speech, the meaning of the message it gives also changes. That is, it learns to express emotions. And all this is a slender chain of connections between the sight, the hearing, the sensory and articulatory apparatus, the brain.

In children with autism, however, this chain is broken. The single units exist, but they do not connect with each other to trigger the process. Children with autism do not make eye contact, do not smile when you smile at them, and do not respond to posture or a different tone. These sensory problems lead them to overload. When you talk to them, their brain processes more than what you say – they see, hear and feel things atone and the same time, and all of them are processed by the brain in the same way. The child does not have the ability to focus on just one thing and this difficulty manifests itself in them very early. For these reasons, children with autism do not say their first words until they get 2 years old. And they need serious help.

To this end, we offer a special program to help both children and their parents walk the complex path from the first stage of development, mentioned above, to the implementation of the complex speech activity of the child with autism in a natural way.

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