Speech Pathology Week

Speech Pathology Week

It’s Speech Pathology Week and we’ve consulted with our Mater Mothers’ Hospitals experts to find out why babies might need a speech pathologist and some milestones mums can keep an eye out for.

Did you know?

Our speech pathologists work with babies to help them to swallow because we use the same muscles to speak and swallow.

Why do babies need a speech pathologist help to swallow?

  • Cleft lip and/or palate
  • Prematurity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Changes to the structures of the face and jaw
  • Congenital syndromes
  • Neurological conditions
  • Tube dependence
  • Respiratory conditions

The speech pathologists who work at Mater Mothers use techniques like special teats and positioning during feeding to help babies learn to suck and swallow safely and comfortably. 

Communication milestones our speech pathologists are monitoring between 0-12 months



Birth–3 Months

  • Startles at loud sounds.
  • Quiets or smiles when you talk.
  • Seems to recognize your voice. Quiets if crying.

Birth–3 Months

  • Makes cooing sounds.
  • Cries change for different needs.
  • Smiles at people.

4–6 Months

  • Moves her eyes in the direction of sounds.
  • Responds to changes in your tone of voice.
  • Notices toys that make sounds.
  • Pays attention to music.

4–6 Months

  • Coos and babbles when playing alone or with you. 
  • Makes speech-like babbling sounds, like pa, ba, and mi.
  • Giggles and laughs.
  • Makes sounds when happy or upset.

7 Months–1 Year

  • Turns and looks in the direction of sounds.
  • Looks when you point.
  • Turns when you call her name.
  • Understands words for common items and people—words like cup, truck, juice, and daddy.
  • Starts to respond to simple words and phrases, like “No,” “Come here,” and “Want more?”
  • Plays games with you, like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake.
  • Listens to songs and stories for a short time.

7 Months–1 Year

  • Babbles long strings of sounds, like mamma, dadada, bababa, gagaga
  • Uses sounds and gestures to get and keep attention.
  • Points to objects and shows them to others.
  • Uses gestures like waving bye, reaching for “up,” and shaking his head no.
  • Imitates different speech sounds.
  • Says 1 or 2 words, like hi, dog, dada, mama, or uh-oh. This will happen around his first birthday, but sounds may not be clear.

(American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, 2018)


The following can be red flags for language development:

By 12 months

  • doesn’t babble with changes in tone – e.g. dadadadadadadadada
  • doesn’t use gestures like waving “bye bye” or shaking head for “no”
  • doesn’t respond to her/his name
  • doesn’t communicate in some way when s/he needs help with something
  • Doesn’t use one word consistently

By 15 months

  • doesn't understand and respond to words like "no" and "up"
  • says no words
  • doesn't point to objects or pictures when asked “Where’s the...?
  • doesn’t point to things of interest as if to say “Look at that!”  and then look right at you

By 18 months

  • doesn’t understand simple commands like "Don't touch"
  • isn’t using at least 20 single words like "Mommy" or "up"
  • doesn’t respond with a word or gesture to a question such as “What’s that? or “Where’s your shoe?”
  • can’t point to two or three major body parts such as head, nose, eyes, feet

By 24 months

  • says fewer than 100 words
  • isn’t consistently joining two words together like "Daddy go" or “ shoes on”
  • doesn’t imitate actions or words
  • doesn’t pretend with toys, such as feeding doll or making toy man drive toy car

By 30 months 

  • says fewer than 300 words
  • isn’t using action words like “run”, “eat”, “fall”
  • isn’t using some adult grammar, such as “two babies” and “doggie sleeping”

3-4 years 

  • doesn’t ask questions by 3 years
  • isn’t using sentences (e.g., "I don't want that" or "My truck is broken")  by three years
  • isn’t able to tell a simple story by four or five years 
    (The Hanen Centre, 2016)

Some of the ways you can help your child’s language development include:

  • Imitating their cooing and babbling
  • Spending time everyday talking with your baby while you’re face to face
  • Reading books to your baby, even when they are very young
  • Playing people games like peek-a-boo or Patter-Cake
  • Commentating your actions throughout the day e.g. “I’m pegging the pegs on the clothes line"
  • Repeating the words that you say e.g. “Splash! We’re splashing in the bath! Splash, splash, splash! You are splashing. I am splashing. Splashing is fun. Splashing in the bath.”
  • Going slow and giving your baby time to respond to you
  • Putting their thoughts into words e.g. “You want ‘up.’ You’re saying ‘pick me up mum'"

If you have any concerns about your babies language or speech development, or your babies sucking, swallowing or chewing you can contact the speech pathologists at Mater Health and Wellness Clinic on 3163 6000 or info.wellness@mater.org.au

For more information on Mater Health and Wellness Clinic: http://wellness.mater.org.au/


American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. (2018). Birth to One Year. Retrieved August 17th, 2018, from The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/01/

The Hanen Centre. (2016). When you Should Seek Support. Retrieved August 17th, 2018, from The Hanen Centre Helping Your Child Communicate: http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/When-You-Are-Concerned/Warning-Signs.aspx


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