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Learning Speech and Language Skills Begins with First Breath

Right from birth, babies begin to communicate.

Taking cues from the facial expressions and body language of the people around them, infants learn how best to express their feelings and needs. This learning will continue for years as infants grow, and develop the ability and skills to use words and sentences to communicate with others.

This early start to learning means it’s crucial for parents to take the time to nurture and encourage their child’s development of speech and language skills, says Emmy Anastasiou, RN, a Public Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

May is Speech and Language Month and it’s a good time to highlight the role parents play in their child’s development, she says.

“It is important for infants and toddlers to have early exposure to language and communication,” Anastasiou says. “What and how we see and say things sets the pathway for further learning with infants. This allows the brain to grow and helps them develop the ability to interpret and navigate their world with words.”

Anastasiou says parents can nurture speech and language development with their children by:

  • Reading and talking with their infants as soon as possible
  • Providing the correct words for objects when toddlers point or gesture at items
  • Listening to children talk and making eye contact with them
  • Reading, singing and playing social games like peek-a-boo together
  • Exaggerating the pitch and tone of their voice when speaking with children

“Helping children develop speech and language skills is one of the best gifts parents can provide,” she says. “Strong speech and language skills help ensure children are better prepared for school so they can be successful learners in school, and in life.”

HKPR District Health Unit is a partner in the District Preschool Speech and Language Program, a not-for-profit partnership between health professionals and parents. Parents are encouraged to visit the program’s website to see if their child’s speech and language skills are on track by reviewing the developmental milestones for children up to five years of age. The site also features information on upcoming events, video demonstrations for helping children develop skills, and links to community organizations and libraries.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Emmy Anastasiou, RN, Public Health Nurse, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569

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