Language Development Pyramid

A great way to look at Speech and Language development is a Pyramid. The skills at the bottom come first and are needed as a foundation to lay the next skill. Lets talk a bit about each layer or building block of the pyramid.


Pre-verbal and early interaction skills are the first signs of communication from your baby. These pre-attention skills start to develop from birth and are the ability to look and listen to what other people are saying or doing.  Some early interaction skills that lay the foundation for language learning are eye attention, turn taking, joint attention and pointing. You can begin working on these skills as soon as your little one is born.


Attention and listening skills form the foundation for developing communication skills. They give your little one the ability to focus on and hear everything that is going on around them.  An important part of this layer of the pyramid is hearing. Your little one needs to be able to hear and have no hearing difficulties. This is why one of the first things SLP’s do before an evaluation is check hearing! Without the ability to hear, listen and pay attention to language children will have difficulties acquiring the skills above on the pyramid.


Play is an important prerequisite for developing early communication skills.  Play is the work of childhood! Your little one learns about language, about social rules, the environment and the people around them through play. Play in all of its forms is an important stepping stone in your little one’s speech and language development.


Understanding or your child’s receptive language is their ability to process and understand what they hear.  It includes being able to understand vocabulary, but also includes the ability to follow instructions and ultimately understand a story.

Receptive language is an important stepping stone to expressive language. It is also vital for our little ones to have in order to understand what people are communicating to them- this is important in understanding expectations/temperament and makes forming relationships.


Expressive language is your little one’s ability to use language to deliver a message. Expressive language can be through talking verbally or by using other forms of communication, such as sign language. 

Initiating, requesting, questioning and giving information all require expressive language skills.  Children need the skills to know the vocabulary and find the words they want to use and then put them together in a grammatically correct structured phrase or sentence.  Expressing however is not just about words. It includes how they give meaning to these words!


Speech Sounds or pronunciation/clarity is the final piece of the pyramid. Speech intelligibility is our child’s ability to clearly and correctly produce sounds in words and put these together in sentences so that the listener can hear and identify what they have said.


Understanding how your little one’s language develops is so important. But what next? Are you wondering how to work on building receptive language? Or attention skills? Or maybe they’re understanding everything but you don’t know how to help them move on to expressing?

WE ARE HERE TO HELP! Check out our tips and techniques HERE to know how to help your child wherever they are in their development.


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