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As I planned and prepared to write my first blog post of 2018, it took me a while to decide what I should discuss. I wanted to pick something that parents and professionals would find useful and informative. Though I see children for therapy from birth to adulthood, I thought it might be best to start at the beginning. So let's begin the new year by talking about beginning speech and language skills.
I have parents that approach me at birthday parties, grocery stores, and any other random place to ask about their child's speech and language development. This is one piece of knowledge that I wish every parent knew about...Joint Attention. This foundational language skill is one that's often overlooked.
Joint Attention, also know as Shared Attention, is "knowing together." This occurs when two people (in this case: you and your child) are focused and alternate attention between each other and the item/activity, thereby sharing the experience. We hope to see this occur naturally in children. This skill occurs in most children before words even emerge. A few studies have indicated that these behaviors typically emerge between 8 and 13 months of age in normally developing children.
There are several skills are important for joint attention:
• Orienting and paying attention to a social partner
• Shifting eye gaze between people and objects
• Sharing emotional states with another person
• Following the gaze, gesture, or pointing finger of another person
• Being able to draw another person’s attention to objects or events for the purpose of sharing
Joint attention is important for so many reasons. According to Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, Laura Mize, "When a child doesn’t [consistently] notice that you’re trying to get him to include you or share an experience, there’s not much real interaction going on between the two of you". Several research studies have indicated that differences in the ability of a child aged 6- to 18-month-old to respond to joint attention are predictive of language ability at 24 to 36 months. And as you may already know, language is such a social thing! We communicate for so many reasons: to request, to greet, to protest, to share opinions, to ask questions, etc. Joint attention is a precursor skill for being a great communicator and for great language skills. When you and your child are sharing each other's attention, this allows them to communicate socially (pragmatic language), focus on the language that you are saying (receptive language), and gives them an opportunity to use or learn to use language (expressive language).
If you have concerns with your child's Joint Attention or overall Speech, Language, and Play skills, don't wait and see. Contact us for a free consultation today.
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Resources Used for This Article:
2. Bakeman & Adamson, 1984; Bates, 1979; Leung & Rheingold, 1981
3. Woods & Wetherby, 2008, p. 181
5. Markus, Mundy, Morales, Delgado, & Yale, 2000; Morales, Mundy, & Rojas, 1998; Mundy & Gomes, 1998; Mundy, Kasari, Sigman, & Ruskin, 1995