Differentiating communication, language, and speech can be confusing for many. While these concepts may sound similar, at their core, they are quite different.
Communication is anything that a child does to elicit a response from another person. This response could be tangible (such as receiving an object) or social (such as a smile or laugh). Communication includes spoken language, as well as non-verbal cues, such as vocalizations, eye contact, gestures, body language, and facial expressions, which are necessary to accurately convey a message when interacting with others. An example of communication might be a child pointing at a favorite toy or smiling in response to a favorite song. Foundational communication skills include joint attention, initiation, engagement, use of gestures, and social reciprocity. These are all important precursors for language and cognitive development. This blog will explain the foundations of communication and their importance for language development.
A great way to target these foundational communication skills is through play! Children of all ages learn through the process of playing – it is one of the most important ways in which they learn about their world. Research shows that play is not just play; instead, it represents early communication and social relationships, and can be a useful tool to support language development. The development of joint attention, imitation, and toy play are all early predictors of later communication development.
Language refers to the words we use and how we use them to share ideas and get what we want (including what words mean, how to make new words, putting words together, and knowing what to say at different times). When children have difficulty understanding what others say, they may have a receptive language disorder. Children who have difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings may have an expressive language disorder. Expressive language can take many forms, including verbal speech, signs, pictures, and speech-generating devices.
Speech refers to the action of how we produce sounds and words, and includes articulation, voice, and fluency (all defined below). When children have difficulty saying specific sounds, stutter when they speak, are difficult to understand, or speak with an abnormal pitch or loudness, they may have a speech disorder.