In an era where young children are exposed to so much technology, it appears this trend has not always been beneficial to their development.
“Research has shown that in Australia, despite increases in overall prosperity, the developmental outcomes for children appear to have worsened …” ¹
Adding to this, while traditionally “children at risk” have been associated with lower socioeconomic areas, new research reveals that – although the proportions of vulnerable children are higher in lower socio-economic areas – there are vulnerable children residing in significant numbers across all socio-economic areas. “Targeting children residing only in poor socio-economic areas will indeed miss the vast majority of children in Australia requiring support.”²
Australian study identifies increase in speech and language problems
A recent University of Queensland study measured speech impairment and/or language delays in preparatory students in Northern Tasmania. Alarmingly, 41.2% of assessed students were identified as having either a speech or language impairment. More specifically:
- 8.7% of students were found to have isolated speech impairments
- 18.2% were diagnosed with isolated language impairments
- 14.3% were identified with a co-morbid speech and language impairment.
The study suggests if this high rate of occurrence is representative of the rest of Australia, we have no choice but to rethink our teaching practices in the early years.
Early intervention a necessity
While we may debate the existing rate of problems in speech, language and literacy skills, what is known is delays in language development are the most common single difficulty in the preschool years. This is crucial to understand as, Researchers repeatedly call for the use of preventative measures. The earlier they are implemented in childhood, the more efficient and effective they are targeting later symptoms. The overwhelming recommendation is for broad-based programs rather than those targeting low socio-economic groups by the authors of this research.
“Decades of interdisciplinary research has identified striking patterns between how a child acquires speech, language and later literacy skills. With a significant number of research studies reporting that children identified with speech and language impairments have difficulties in school and specifically spelling, reading comprehension, phonological awareness and writing. When considering these the
speech and language studies, children with concomitant or related difficulties are more likely to experience literacy difficulties than those with speech impairments alone.”³
Unplug and Play
PLD commends the efforts of the Heart Foundation with their recent national campaign Unplug and Play. The campaign aims to limit our children’s electronic entertainment (i.e. TV, games, computers, internet) to a maximum two hours per day in an effort to combat childhood
obesity and increase the physical health of children. PLD believes efforts to limit electronic screen time also support communication, motor skill development, and the social and emotional wellbeing of our children.
PLD assists parents and teachers with early intervention
PLD Organisation heavily supports early intervention measures being implemented in homes and schools. PLD has compiled a number of useful resources:
- An extensive number of programs targeting oral language skills in the early years
- Product support video clips are available on the PLD web site for many of the programs and resources. You will find them on their respective resource pages. For example, Developing News Telling and Narrative Skills.
- Developmental milestone posters are accompanied with product support videos. For example, Speech and Language Developmental Milestones – Now that I am 4 years old.
- Seminars focused upon the implementation of prevention and early intervention measures.
If you are concerned a child in your care is not realising their full capability in language, speech, or literacy, please Contact Us for more information on what you can do.
¹ Brinkman, S, Sayers, M, Goldfield, S & Kline, J. Population monitoring of language and cognitive development in Australia: The Australian Early Development Index. www.australianedi.org.au International Journal of Speech Pathology, (2009): 11(5), 419-430.
² Ibid., 428
³ Harrison, L.J., McLeod, S, Berthelsen, D. & Walker, S. Literacy, numeracy and learning in school-aged children identified as having speech and language impairment in early childhood. International Journal of Speech Pathology, (2009): 11(5), 392-403.
Jessup et. al. Prevalence of speech/and or language impairment in preparatory students in Northern Tasmania. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2008).