From Beyond Baby Talk (October 2012) authors Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP and Julie Masterson, PhD, CCC-SLP
No matter how many children you have, if you are like most parents, you anxiously await their first word and react with wonder as they begin to form sentences and, eventually, “chat” with you and others! And although some fascinating information exists showing siblings and gender impact language development, it’s important to remember one thing: every child is unique. Just when you think you know everything based on what one child is doing, the other child will throw you for a loop!
Sitting in playgroups or playing at the neighborhood park, it can be tempting to compare your children with others. Even if they don’t admit it, most parents do – whether it’s about first steps, first words, or first sippy cup-holding. As the parent of multiples, you may feel double or triple the pressure – checking on not only how your children are developing compared to your friends’ children, but compared to one another.
In our book, Beyond Baby Talk, we include information surrounding the special circumstances of multiple births. Much research that exists today focuses on twins, but as larger multiple births occur, more research studies are growing along with them. It will be interesting for us, as language development experts, to watch what’s discovered – and for you, as parents of multiples, to gain greater insight.
Research Today Says…What?
Initially, twins may lag behind single-birth children in their language development. This may be due to biological or medical reasons, such as preterm birth. For example, some preterm births bring accompanying medical complications which can interfere with a child’s language development. So, our advice to parents of multiples is this: to determine whether your children are reaching their language milestones, be sure to calculate based on their age from their full-term due date. In our book, we show a detailed timeline checklist and describe the milestones in detail.
Still, twins may lag behind single-birth children even when compensations are taken into account. Twins have been shown to have smaller vocabularies during the second year of life and demonstrate less joint attention with their moms. Can you guess why? Some language specialists suspect it’s because twins are sufficient company for one another and adult interaction is not needed. Others suggest twins prefer to interact with their parents rather than with the other child. Still other experts suggest delays may be due to the lack of one-on-one situations with their parents. So, as you can see, research still doesn’t have all the answers.
Twin Talk – Urban Legend or Actual Interaction?
When people hear about “twin talk,” it usually refers to when children sound like they are speaking a special, secret new language with one another. You may have observed these “conversations” in your home – or even on YouTube. It is awfully fun to think about! Can you imagine one saying to the other, “Where’s mom with that bottle!” or commiserating over “Carrots – again?!”
Researchers have found that twins are more likely than single-born children to imitate and respond to non-language sounds (like babbling) that their sibling is using. As they imitate and repeat one another, they each learn how to produce sounds like the other. The result may be an initial knowledge of speech sounds that’s different from other children. But it’s not like they are creating their own language.
For every child, rich language skills will come out of the ordinary things parents and children do. So enjoy each day and consider their early years as windows of opportunity. Many things will affect their language development – from culture and child care to exposure to television, texting, and much more. But parents remain the primary language role models for their children.
If you are concerned about one of your children’s speech and language development, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP). You can find one in your local area using the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s online ProSearch tool at http://www.asha.org/findpro/.
For more information or to order Beyond Baby Talk, go to http://www.asha.org/beyondbabytalk/.
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