When you are listing words your kiddo can say, are you counting every word they attempt? Words they pronounce right? Close approximations? Do you keep a diary?
This is a great question because it’s something that I know most parents are thinking about as soon as their child starts speaking. We know we take our kids to the pediatrician and they are constantly asking us questions like “how many words do they say,” “what words do they say” or “are the words clear?” It’s very hard to remember all of these things when we are balancing everything else going on in our daily lives.
With both of my children, I started tracking words as soon as they started speaking. My daughter began saying “dada” around 10.5 months. As soon as I heard her say that word, I pulled up the “notes” app on my smartphone and wrote the word, date and if it was clear or unclear.
As she grew, I just kept adding to the list. We are doing the same thing for our son who is almost 11 months old. As a parent, I can tell you that I was hypersensitive to our son’s speech and language development. Knowing that second children, especially boys develop speech slower, I panicked when he wasn’t babbling until 8-9 months of age. Once he started, though, that was it. Now, he says “mama,” “dada,” and has started imitating “up.”
I also documented speech utterances that are unclear. These are called word approximations.
Word approximations are the best consonant-vowel combinations a child is able to produce and most closely resemble the word they are attempting to verbalize. For example, some children cannot produce the final “L” sound in the word “apple,” but are able to say “apo.”
Another child may not be able to say the word “cookie” because he/she cannot say the hard “c/k” sound, but may be able to say “tootie” instead. These word approximations serve as functional communication for the child. Modeling the words and phrases correctly both before and after providing the word approximations or scripts is important! By modeling the correct pronunciation of the word, it lets the child know that you do understand their attempt to communicate but that they aren’t saying the word completely correct.
This modeling is beneficial for kids who are typically developing, but also for this who are struggling with speech and language skills.
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My in-laws have a turtle tank and, for whatever reason, my daughter was fascinated. Whenever she would go to the tank, we’d make sure to model the word turtle for her several times. Eventually, she attempted to say the word, but it didn’t come out just right. “Tutle” was what she kept saying. This is because she was way too young to master that “r” sound, so she just deleted it.
Even though this isn’t a total word, I still made a point of writing it in my app and keeping track under another section called “approximations.” This way, when I went to the pediatrician and he asked me how many words she has, I was able to tell him she had ____ clear words and ____ word approximations.
This also helps you keep calm as a parent. By keeping track of word approximations, you know that your child is attempting to communicate. It also lets you look back as they develop their speech skills and see how far they’ve come or to alert you if you need to seek out speech and language services.
In your diary, journal or in whatever mode you choose to use, I would also make notes if your child is gesturing to communicate. When children gesture or use sign language, it significantly helps them when it comes to learning how to actually say the words.
Here’s a suggestion of what a typical log might look like:
|Date of Speech||Word||Approximation/Clear Word|
|5/4/20||Appo||Approximation for apple|
|5/6/20||Tutle||Approximation for turtle|
Just remember, no matter how you track, it is fine! It’s more for your knowledge and to help the pediatrician determine if there might be a speech and language delay. Don’t drive yourself crazy over this. If you miss a word, that’s ok. Eventually, they learn new words so quickly that you do loose track.
Good luck and enjoying listening to all of those new words and approximations!
Leave them in the comments or send them to