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Is the Pandemic Contributing to a Speech Delay in Your Child?

As kids hit toddlerhood, making sure they’re on track with major development milestones such as talking can sometimes be difficult to judge.

But when kids hit toddlerhood during a pandemic – when they’ve likely been kept out of group childcare environments, had way more screen time than you would otherwise have liked, and spent a lot of time being spoken to by masked adults – it can be much harder.

Learn how to spot a speech delay in your child and what you can do at home to help.

Even before COVID hit, experts had noticed a rise in problems among young children in the UAE, with prevalence of speech-sound disorders (SSD) such as stuttering, apraxia, lack of social communication and other impairments affecting around nine percent of kids. Roughly five to eight percent of preschoolers experience language delays that continue throughout their school years and into adulthood, while 15-20 percent of two-year-olds are delayed in their expressive language development.

“Red flags to watch out for at any time in those up to four years old include any loss of speech or babbling, never gesturing or imitating, not appearing to understand speech or to hear very well and never developing words beyond repeating what others say,” says Rugaiyah Majed Hamidaddin, a speech-language Pathologist who has previously worked at the Child Early Intervention Medical Center (CEIMC) in Dubai.

If you suspect a problem, the earlier a child receives the help he or she needs, the better the outcome.

“Early intervention also reduces behavioural problems such as anxiety of low self-esteem that may occur due to a speech or language issue,” says Rugaiyah. “As a starting point, get a hearing test done if their child is not responding normally since hearing disorder could be the root of the problem. If in doubt, consult a speech-language therapist.

Tools you can use at home

There’s lots you can do to give your child’s speech and language therapy a head start. Rugaiyah suggests:

  • Talk while doing things and going places.
  • Expand on words. For example, if your child says “car,” you respond by saying, “You’re right! That is a big red car”.
  • Make time to read to your child every day. Try to find books with large pictures and one or two words or a simple phrase or sentence on each page. Name and describe the pictures on each page.
  • Have your child point to pictures that you name.
  • Look at family pictures and have your child explain what is happening.
  • Talk about spatial relationships (first, middle and last; right and left) and opposites (up and down; big and little).
  • Expand on social communication and storytelling skills by “acting out” typical scenarios with a dollhouse and its props.
  • Follow your child’s directions as she or he explains how to do something.
  • Build on your child’s vocabulary. Provide definitions for new words, and use them in context.
  • Ask “wh” questions (who, what, when, where, or why) when reading a book or watching television and monitor his or her response.

Excerpted from “Is the Pandemic Contributing to a Speech Delay in Your Child?” in Gulf News. Read the full article online for additional information on how to spot a potential speech or language delay and more ways to work with your child at home to stimulate language development.

Source: Gulf News | Is the Pandemic Contributing to a Speech Delay in Your Child?, | © Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2021. All rights reserved.

Do you need someone to talk to? To schedule an evaluation or to get advice about your child’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Manager at 650.688.3625 or CHC teletherapy services are available now.