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Health & Parenting

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Speech Delay in Kids Linked to Later Emotional Problems

Study Shows Language Delays at Age 5 May Lead to Mental Health Issues in Adulthood

Parents Play Crucial Role continued...

“Delayed receptive language is very strongly associated with delays in learning in school, and getting behind in school is a huge risk for emotional problems and poor self-esteem,” Feinstein says. “This important and sound new study shows that it also affects how well these kids do in life.”

But “parents can do a lot,” he says. “How much you read to your children and the attention you pay to their education makes a difference Speaking to your child and taking time to have a back-and-forth conversation is also helpful.”

The new findings represent “a call to action,” Feinstein says. “If you have concerns, go to the pediatrician and ask for a speech and language assessment, and if the child goes to school, request that the school provide an assessment,” he suggests.

Early Intervention Best

“The results from this study suggest that children who experience poor receptive language skills in early childhood are more likely to experience lower levels of mental health in adulthood than the [children] with normal language development,” explains Melissa Wexler Gurfein, a speech-language pathologist in New York. “These findings are not surprising as children with poor receptive language skills often fall behind in social situations, as well as academic situations,” she tells WebMD in an email.

“With this, a language-delayed child may experience low self-esteem, which, without intervention, may impact on how this child transitions throughout childhood and into adulthood.”

This is not to say children with language delays are a lost cause, she says. “It is important to provide the right support and intervention for a child who is experiencing language delays,” she says. “The earlier a child receives proper intervention, the more successful that intervention might be.”

Wexler’s advice to parents and pediatricians? “It is important to identify a child who is suspected of having a language delay and begin treatment for the delay to hopefully not only help the child catch up to his same-age peers, but also to provide the support he needs to be successful in life.”

Joslin Zeplin-Paradise, a speech-language pathologist in New York, agrees. “A language delay is not a setup to fail,” she tells WebMD. “It is an opportunity to seek help and get to the root cause of the problem,” she says, adding that there are many, many potential causes for speech delays.

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