Baby babble and language skills

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 4th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

First it’s goo-goo and ga-ga. Then “ma-ma” and “da-da.” And before you know it, your baby’s fluent… in baby babble.

It’s a natural process parents rarely stress over. And if your little one says “wabbit” for “rabbit,” not to worry. A school speech specialist will correct that later.

But a new study in the Netherlands reveals later is not good enough when testing language skills. How well toddlers talk can predict if they’ll need special education later on.

The study, described in the journal Pediatrics, followed nearly ten-thousand children. The toddlers, fifteen months old at the study’s start, were randomly placed in two groups. One group was screened twice for language development… first at fifteen to eighteen months and again at age two. Researchers checked the toddlers to see if they understood simple words and sentences, if they could state simple needs and how many words they used for food, toys and animals. Those with problems were referred for speech testing and therapy.

Researchers did not screen the second group. Instead, they monitored their language skills during regular baby check-ups.

Early screening paid off. By the time the children turned eight, almost four percent of the non-screened children had been placed in a special-education school. Only three percent of the screened children had. And the screened children were thirty percent less likely to have problems speaking and spelling.

So, the earlier toddlers are screened for language skills, the better. “Talk” it over with your baby’s doctor.