Baby talk – do mums just know?



James Cook University speech pathology honours student Vicki Williams wants to find out what first time mums know about speech and language development in young children.

“The early years are so important” she said. “Parents are the most influential people in a young child’s life and how they interact with their child influences their development, including talking and listening.”

Vicki, under the supervision of Dr Wendy Pearce, Senior Speech Pathology Lecturer in JCU’s School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation, has prepared a survey for young mums in order to find out more about this topic.

A third year speech pathology student, Vicki wants to find out how new mums rate the importance of speech and language development in comparison to other events and milestones in the life of their child and family.

“Children learn to talk through their experiences and opportunities to practice in supportive, environments,” Vicki said. “While mothers are said to have that ‘motherly instinct’, and may be expected to know every aspect of their child, little is actually known about mothers’ knowledge and understanding of the stages of communication development.”

Vicki said the main questions the survey was addressing were:

  • Where do first time mums get information about how to help children learn to communicate?
  • Do they have ideas about activities that can be done at home to promote speech and language learning?
  • Where do mums go to find out what they can do?
  • At what stage do new mums begin to think about the importance of learning to talk?

“Speech pathologists often give advice to parents about how to stimulate language development, but this may be after a problem is identified,” Vicki said. “Sometimes, more can be done earlier to help children learn to talk and understand others.”

“When you have a baby – especially for the first time – your life changes; your priorities in life change and the things that you consider important may also change.”

All first-time mothers with babies up to 12 months of age and women who are pregnant with their first child are invited to complete the survey. The survey is available online at