Written by :
Head of Department of Surgery,
How and when do a child’s speech, hearing and vision develop?
In every child, the development of speech and language is an ongoing process,
beginning at birth. The period from 0-5 years is recognized as important for all
aspects of development in a child, including ‘hearing’ , ‘language’ and
‘speech’. The development of communication skill is essential for every child’s
emotional, social and intellectual development. Although it may seem that babies
just develop speech naturally, without trying to put in much effort, most
parents are not even aware of how the process unfolds. “Learning to talk” must
be taught by parents and adults. Without the right kind of help at the right,
the child may learn the communication skill later, improperly, or not at
The baby’s first word is a major milestone in the parent’s lives.
The ability to speak opens the door on a whole new way of relating to the world.
Even before the baby can speak, she learns a great deal about the language. It
is still not clear how speech develops in a child.
The First Year
Up to six weeks
At this stage, the baby will exhibit the most primitive form of speech - crying and gurgling. When you smile at her, your baby will respond by gurgling at you.
Three to four months
This is the moment when you hear your baby say “Ma” or “Pa” for the first time. It is thrilling to think that the baby is calling out to you,
but in fact your baby does not understand the significance of what she has said.
Your baby will progress to two-syllabled words, which are formed by repeating the first syllable – “mama”, for instance. She will also
become more responsive to the sound of human voices and to music.
Your baby will continue her babbling, but now she will try to shout to attract your attention. She will listen to your conversations with others, turning her head from one person to the other. She will try to sing along with music.
She will start combining syllables and phrase them like sentences.
Ten to eleven months
It is time to look out for your baby’s first “real” word. It will probably relate to what is most important in her little world. It is very likely that the baby will have difficulty pronouncing consonants until the age of four or five. She will have a tendency to drop the consonant from the beginning or the end of words. There is no fixed deadline by which your child should be speaking. However, if your child has not started speaking by the time she is two and a half, you must seek expert help.
The Second Year
The child is now going to learn to classify objects in groups. She may not
be able to make complex, fine differentiations. She will often be using the same word to describe objects sharing one or more common feature. Thus, while she may call two different objects by the same name, she will know the difference between.
The child’s vocabulary is constantly expanding and she will first learn those words that are most relevant in order to control and relate to her environment, e.g. names of people, toys, food etc. The rate at which she should learn new words should be between one and three words a month. By the time she is two years old, her vocabulary should extend to about 200 words. The child will now be able to formulate sentences that are more complex.
What can my newborn baby hear?
In early infancy, babies are startled by loud noises. By the time they are three months old, they merely blink. At four months, they turn towards the source of the sound. Hearing and speech go hand in hand. By three months, most babies will have limited conversations with their parents. Familiar sounds will arouse certain emotions.
As she grows older, the baby’s hearing becomes more analytical. She understands different emotions like anger and love. Sounds help a child learn to communicate. Speech will develop faster if a child is spoken to and addressed more frequently.
In case if the child is not speaking by the time she is two and a half years old, she may have to seek medical advice. Hearing problems may be responsible for this.
What can a newborn baby see?
In the first couple of months, your baby will not be able to focus on anything further than ten inches from her face. A newborn’s eyes are
sensitive to the human face and movement. A newborn’s colour vision is initially limited to bright colours like red and blue, and then expands to include green and yellow.
When does the child develop perfect vision?
The baby will probably develop complete three-dimensional vision only by the time she is four months old. She will have perfect vision by the time she is six months old.
If the child keeps bumping into the furniture or has trouble following the path of a ball thrown to her, it may be a sign that she cannot see properly. Be alert for changes in the appearance of her eyes, such as drooping eyelid or a squint and it might happen that you may have to seek the help of an expert.