If you discover that your child may have a speech or language delay, one of your first steps would be to see a speech pathologist. There can be a number of reasons for these delays, so one of the first things the speech pathologist will do is test your child in the following areas: receptive language (what your child understands), expressive language (what your child can say), body language and gestures, and oral motor status (how the anatomy of the mouth works for speech as well as for eating and drinking). After the testing, the speech pathologist will better know what may be hindering your child and will be able to come up with an individual plan for your child to overcome his delays.
In the meantime, there are some things parents can do to help their children develop in the areas of speech and language:
1. Talk with your children. It doesn't matter if your 8 month old really understands what you are saying, but it's in this time that they are soaking up the sounds of your particular language, which will be part of the framework for later use. If you feel odd carrying on a one-sided conversation, simply explain your routines as you do them.
2. Sing silly songs, especially ones with repetitive sounds and noises. Encourage them to try and imitate you.
3. Start reading to your child by the time he is 6 months old. Start out with books with textures and vivid pictures with simple wording. Read and try to engage them - "Do you see the brown cow?" As your child gets older, start reading more predictable books that your child can memorize. Eventually your child will try and pretend to read the book back to you. It's okay that your child is memorizing and not really reading. Memorizing is one of the first steps to reading.
4. Play the name game as soon as your child begins saying their first word(s). Point at items and name them, encouraging your child to do the same.
Lastly, if your child does have a speech delay, don't panic. In most situations, with the right treatment from a speech pathologist, children are back on track within 1-2 years.