Early Communication Development

Birth-9 months

  • Development of joint attention/social communication
  • Development of visual skills and observation
  • Development of motor skills and beginning imitation
  • Beginning of reaction to tone and facial expression

9 months

  • Earliest gestures develop from actions and reactions of others.
  • Children learn when they drop a toy, their carer catches it – they learn to give – carer/parent may then gesture/smile to indicate thank you or to say “ta”.
  • Children shake their head to indicate no/turn their head away from food they do not like – then watch their parents/carers response thus learning that a communicative gesture elicits a response.

10 months

  • Children learn to reach for toys.
  • They learn to anticipate reactions from others and will raise arms to be picked up – their parent/carer responds and communication is developing – parent/carer will pair words with actions, i.e. pick up, etc.

11 months

  • Children begin to hold up objects for the carer/parent to look at – they react to the parent/carer’s laughter, verbalisation, etc.
  • They learn to wiggle – move their hand when people leave and come – and the word bye is paired with this by their parents/carer.

Research suggests that the importance of gestures is significant and that children need 16 words and gestures by 16 months to begin to establish a language framework. The exact gestures learned will vary in families but this gestural language is a critical milestone in early language acquisition and it launches a child from early nonverbal language to first words and a burst of language development from 18 months. This also correlates with a child having attained gross and early fine motor skills, i.e. walking and pointing, etc. and they can now concentrate on developing the more complex and sophisticated motor skills of speech.

It is evident then that the gestures children use in communicating with those around them, even before they use spoken language, tell parents/carers and others about how a child’s communication is developing.

How can I help my child learn KWS?

  • Use a gesture and a word at the same time.
  • Whenever your
    child uses a gesture to communicate, acknowledge it and praise them.
  • Point to objects or use gestures throughout the day when interacting with your child.

When should I use gestures/KWS with my child?

Gestural cues or KWS can be used in communication with any child while they are developing early language.

Gestural cues or KWS can be used in communication with any child while they are developing early language.

  • For all children learning at an early language stage
  • If your child is having difficulty expressing themselves the use of KWS will give them some control of their expressive communication.
  • If your therapist discusses with you the need to assist your child in expressing themselves with gestural cues to assist their language acquisition.