I remember that my son spoke late! He was 1.6 years but still not using many words. My SLP sensors were on and I knew that the next critical thing I needed to look at were his GESTURES. How many and how often would he use them?

Though his meaningful words were only 10-15, he had a whole dictionary of gestures to denote people, songs, activities, animals, and vehicles… He could narrate his whole day’s happenings to me when I came back from clinic with a mix of gestures, some true words and a whole lot of gibberish language thrown in. So gestures were the bridge between his understanding of language and the use of words to express his thoughts.

A lot of research has been going on in the field of gesture development and based on the First words project, (Dr.Amy Wetherby, Florida State University) here are a list of gestures quoted from the project. Your child should be using the following:

  •   9 months: Giving objects in the parents hand, shaking head for “No”
  • 10 months: Reach for objects, raise arms to be carried
  • 11 months: Show objects to others, wave hands
  • 12 months: Open hand point to divert the attention of others to things of interest
  • 13 months: Clap, Flying kiss
  • 14 months: Index finger point and gesture for ‘sh’ (quiet)
  • 15 months: Head nod, hand gesture meaning ‘wait’
  • 16 months: Hi five, I don’t know (shoulder shrug) etc.
  • The list above is an example of gestures that a child will typically learn and is not restricted to only the ones listed. It’s important that the child has 16 gestures by the age of 16 months because it is a predictor of the child’s ability to interact with the adult socially and also learn language from them. If they are not using these gestures then the child is at risk for language delay due to autism/ other developmental delays. 

The Earlier the better is cliché but when it comes to your child’s communication how early is early? At 16 months it definitely is! Why wait? In doubt consult a Speech Language Pathologist and remember GESTURES are a big deal!!!