Speech Development


Speech is a medium at which language is communicated. There are a lot of reasons to communicate: receive and give information, question, attract attention, request or deny objects, the list goes on. Given the importance of communication, failing to effectively communicate may lead to problems in the following aspects:

Physiological needs

Communication is vital to meet physiological needs as we need to express ourselves when we need food, shelter and all other basic survival needs.

Psychological health

We communicate to express our feelings and thoughts


Learning is always an active behaviour. Not only do we take in information given to us, we also learn through asking questions, sharing knowledge and applying what we learnt.

Speech development starts very early on even before the first word. Toddlers are able to recognize their mothers’ voices over stranger’s voices. This was suggested as infants ‘learn’ speech while in their mother’s womb. As speech development starts very early in life, it is important that toddlers are given an engaging and encouraging environment to learn. In Hong Kong, toddlers are often late speakers as some aspect vital to speech development had been neglected. When the correct concept, motivation or opportunities are given to toddlers, speech will develop naturally. Parents and caregivers are the first speech and language sources where toddlers learn and imitate, therefore it is important that caregivers model correct speech production.

What can parents do to help students?

Even though assistance from professional and educators will benefit children’s speech development, parents are the more direct and frequency social references at learning speech. Parents take a major role in shaping children’s speech.

The following advice is derived from the Hanen Program, which is designed to foster an enriched and inclusive learning environment for children. There are guidelines for parents to follow to encourage speech development.

There are essentially 3 ‘A’ words that parents could implement into playtime that would benefit children’s speech development, namely, adapt, adjust and add. Here are some things parents could adapt:

1. We often are very quick at reaching decisions or deciding for our children, however part of speech development is to allow them to be able to raise their opinion

2. Wait for your children to react. Do not disturb their actions, it is often the case where children need more time in order to compose their thoughts and then express them.

3. Adjust to your child’s speech ability. As adults, we are used listening to complete phrases or sentences, however, we should expect less of our children as their language abilities are still developing. It may take some time for their skills to solidify.

4. Parents could actively implement things that could enhance children’s language. While playing with them, parents could be more verbal and introduce more vocabularies, descriptions or context into play, to allow more exposure for children. Adding content into play would allow children to expand their language ability.