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The first words landscape
Doll with feeding bottle

When typically developing infants take their first steps into the world of language they will tend to:

  • Use a 'first word' that is consistent and can be decoded, even if it does not resemble a real word;
  • Develop slowly – on average 50 words at 18-20 months;
  • Understand more than they produce;
  • Convey meaning through intonation – even with the same utterance or word; and
  • Use instances where they are misunderstood to develop grammar that is more precise.
Interpreting one word statements
  • The table below gives some examples of how a child might try to communicate through their early use of single words.
  • How would you respond to the child?
Child Meaning
More I want some more
Book Let's look at a book
Anna Nice to see you (Anna)
That That's nice
Rah Let's pretend to be a lion
Adah? What's that?
Bird There's a bird outside
Pre-intentional educators: an overview (1)
Teacher interacting with child

Click on each of the following heading to find out more:

Social interaction

Engaging with objects

Intentional communication

The physical aspects of communication

Pre-intentional educators: an overview (2)
Child using AAC device

Click on each of the following heading to find out more:

Extending intentional pre-verbal communication

Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Establishing first words

Extending the use of words