Areas of Communication Development

Encouraging Toddler Communcation

Photo credit: Melanie Elise Photography

Watching our kids develop communication skills is so cool! Whether it is using sounds, words, gestures, or a cute smile, there are many different types of communication skills. You might find your self wondering, “what is it called when kids can understand something but they can’t say it yet?” or “what is it called when my daughter uses “w” for the “r” sound?

This post will give you a breakdown of the different areas that make up communication skills or are related to communication skills and examples of what these areas look like in communication.

1. Language: A system of communication based on socially shared rules that allow us to understand concepts and express ourselves. Broken down into:

  • Expressive Language: How we express our wants, needs, emotions and ideas.
    – Examples: Using sign language, body language, cooing, babbling, grunting, saying words, phrases and sentences, asking questions and telling stories.
  • Receptive Language: How we understand language.
    – Examples: Following directions, answering questions, identifying objects when asked and understanding new concepts.
  • Pragmatic Language (Social Language): How we use language to interact with others.
    – Examples: Having conversations, sharing experiences with others, playing with peers/siblings, taking turns in conversation and in play, making eye contact, interpreting body language and tone of voice, using social greetings (e.g. hello), showing emotions and verbalizing feelings.

2. Speech: How we produce speech. Broken down into:

  • Articulation (Also know as “Artic”): How we produce speech sounds. Ability to produce consonant sounds like: b, p, d, t and then to combine consonants and vowels to produce words.
    • Examples of difficulties with artilcation:
      Substitutions: replacing one sound for another (“wun” instead of “run”).
      Distortions: sounds that are distorted (producing a slushy sounding “s” sound in “sun” that almost sounds like an “s”, but not quite).
      Omissions: leaving a sound out of a word (“ca” instead of “cat”).
      Additions: adding in an unnecessary sound (“caruh” instead of “car”).
  • Voice: How sound is produced by the vocal tract.
    • Examples:
      • Vocal quality– How does the voice sound? (clear, raspy, harsh, or nasal).
      • Vocal loudness– Is normal pitch used, is the voice loud enough to hear or too loud?
  • Fluency: How we produce fluent speech.
    • Examples: It is common for young children to repeat whole words when they are trying to formulate their message. For example, “And, and, then I fell down.” Children and adults often experience other typical disfluencies, such as interjections (“um” and “uh).
      • Disfluencies that are less common and may be an indication of stuttering include:
        Prolongations (e.g.“CccccanIhavecrackers?”)
        Repetitions (e.g. “Ca-ca-ca-ca-can I have crackers?”)
        Blocks (e.g. When trying to say “Can I have crackers?” speech stops after “Ca”   and airflow  needed for speech is stopped.
        Secondary behaviors– exhibits physical signs of struggle/avoidance, such as facial grimacing or eye closing.

3. Feeding & Swallowing: How we eat, chew, suck, and gather food in the mouth to prepare for swallowing and the swallow itself. These are also known as oral motor skills.

  • Examples: The ability to suck liquid through a straw, eat a variety of textures, chew food, and prepare for swallowing, and swallow food or liquid.

4. Literacy: How we develop early literacy skills that eventually lead to the mastery of reading and writing.

  • Pre-literacy skills in young children include showing awareness of books, looking at books, enjoying being read to, choosing favorite books, identifying pictures in a book, tracking from left to right, identifying letters, pointing to and labeling pictures.
  • Then comes the emergence of reading and writing skills like phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, sound- letter correspondence, scribbling then writing letters, words, and eventually stories.

Areas of Communication DevelopmentPhoto credit: Melanie Elise Photography