Speech and language development encompass a variety of spectrums for children. In many cases, children grasp the concept of speech and language before beginning kindergarten. For some children, however, the concepts in language may be slow to develop, often resulting in the need for the services of a speech and language pathologist.
One aspect of language development that can be delayed in acquisition is the concept of counting, numbers and plurality. For most children, prior to entering grade school, the concept of ‘one’ and ‘two’ simply mean a single item or multiple items. It is difficult for very small children to understand the concept of counting past the number 3 as a representation of the number of objects present. In other words, when a child sees five apples, he may say there are two as a way of expression plurality and not necessary counting the objects.
As a parent, at what point do you find the complication of counting versus plurality a concern for your child? In most children, the concept of counting and plurality comes around age three. It is within the span from age three to age four that most children move beyond the number words ‘one’ and ‘two’ and begin to grasp the concept of counting and plurality to include ‘three’, ‘four’, and ‘five’.
Beyond the concept of counting, the next concept children must learn is the concept of ‘cardinal principle’. The cardinal principle is simply the ability of the child to count and understand the last number counted is the total of the objects in the set. In other words, when counting objects of five, the child who understands the concept of the cardinal principle, will understand the last number of ‘five’ means there is a total of five in the set.
If, by age four, your child does not seem to understand or grasp the concept of number words and the cardinal principle, it may be appropriate to consider the services of a speech and language pathologist. Often, with a few sessions of language intervention, a child can learn this concept of number words and be prepared to apply that concept into everyday language.
As with any complication involving language and speech development, it is important to seek medical attention early when the complication begins. Absent complications involving physical health or psychological issues, most children grasp language naturally and, with the support of parents and language pathologist, can expand their language with relative ease.