Prelinguistic skills are communication skills that a child begins to develop before they approximate their first word or begin to speak. These skills create the language foundation that is necessary before a child can start using language and communicating verbally. Many caregivers wonder when their child is going to begin speaking, so it is important to monitor these skills and help elicit them throughout daily routines to build on the skillsets necessary for first words.  

Prelinguistic skills that parents should focus on eliciting prior to encouraging verbal approximations can be taught throughout play and daily routines. Prelinguistic skills that begin to develop prior to words are:

Eye contact

Pointing or Reaching

Social Gestures

Reciprocal Play

Vocalizing to objects

Imitating Sounds

Imitating Gestures

Play Skills

Responding to Environment 

Turn Taking

Increased Attention Span

These skills are very important as they create the foundation for communication and how language is developed. If a child is having difficulties with these skills, then they will have fewer opportunities to learn about their environment, attach meaning to words, and understand intent to communicate. A child who has challenges developing these prelinguistic skills will likely develop difficulties verbally communicating as they develop. 

If you notice that your child is not engaging or demonstrating these skills, take time to allow for more opportunities. Be down on your child’s level during playtime. Participate in joint attention and turn-taking games/songs, simplify your language, be face to face, slow down your rate of speech, and vary your intonation/voice. If you are concerned that your child is not demonstrating the ability to engage in these skills, seek an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist. 

 if you are considering a speech therapy evaluation for your loved one, contact us today. We’d love to help.

About the Author: Jacqueline Banks, M.S. CCC-SLP earned her B.S. in Psychology at The State University of New York College at Oneonta and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Sacred Heart University. Jacqueline provides Early Intervention Speech Therapy Services to children ages 0-3 in Westchester County.