Is Your Child Ready For School?
27th Mar 2019
The first 3 years of life are most critical for speech, language and communication development. In fact, 90% of brain development occurs by age 5. At birth, every neuron in the cerebral cortex has an estimated 2,500 synapses; by the age of three, this number has grown to a whopping 15,000 synapses per neuron. The average adult, however, has about half that number of synapses.
Speech and Language therapists often say children’s language skills should be adult like by age four. That’s quite a lot to learn by age four!
Beyond age four children are refining some irregular tense of verbs and adding more words to their vocabulary.
Many parents may have concerns about their child’s speech and language development. These parents are often told by well meaning friends, relatives, GPs, health visitors or “non-SLTs” professionals to “leave it for six months” (before seeking an assessment). Another parent may say “my son didn’t talk until he was 3 and he is fine now”. What they mean is he can talk now but they may not see the connection between being late to talk and his difficulty reading or with comprehension or problem solving or remembering steps in a multiple step instruction.
Vocabulary is the single most predictive measure of school outcomes, those with better vocabularies do better in school and those with lower vocabularies do not do as well and sometimes do not continue to higher education.
Waiting is not appropriate advice, not intervening has a knock on a cumulative effect on the child and her experiences in the classroom and on the playground.
And the knock on effect of weak language skills does not go away. A survey of 1,300 primary and secondary school teachers across the UK found that more than 60% saw increasing incidents of underdeveloped vocabulary among pupils of all ages, leading to lower self-esteem, negative behaviour and in some cases greater difficulties in making friends.
Those with a low vocabulary were also less likely to do well in national tests such as GCSEs, struggling to understand instructions and questions included in papers.
Both primary and secondary teachers agreed that the impact on pupils was potentially severe, with more than 80% agreeing that children with vocabulary deficiency were likely to have lower self-esteem.
Waiting also is more costly in terms of actual money. Speech and language therapy is less costly then an educational psychology assessment or visit to the child and adolescent psychiatrist, later down the line or counselling. In the USA, it has been shown that for every $1 spend on early intervention it saves $4 spent later on in educational tutoring/intervention. And it is more effective and so much more fun!!!
Children in the UK, are taught phonics in nursery and formal reading instruction in reception year. If they are not on target with their speech and language skills they will be disadvantaged when it comes to learning to read, spell and write. Reading is re-coding spoken language from an auditory signal to a visual system.
As a matter of fact, some of the very first signs of dyslexia are mispronouncing multisyllabic words and word finding difficulties. Many decades ago, many children who were seen for speech and language therapy as pre- schoolers were later seen for dyslexia at school age.
The link between S&L and reading is now very well established, most children whose speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) that are not resolved by 5 years 6 months have difficulties with learning to read that are more long term.
The younger the child is seen the more likely there problem will resolve before even entering school.
A child’s speech language and communication skills can be assessed from birth – onwards.
Speech and Language Therapists are the only professionals uniquely qualified to assess, diagnose and treat speech, language and communication disorders.
Speech and language therapists have a set of well researched and established set of developmental norms. For very young children, these norms look a pre-linguistic social interaction, attention and even babbling. We also use standardised assessment to assess toddlers language development, looking at what does he understand, what can he say, how does he say it.
Children develop at different rates but by doing a standardised assessment we can tell if the child is developing inline with 68.9% of their age matched peers. How? Standardised assessments are administered to thousands of children across various ages, these are distributed and center around the average score and form the normal bell curve.
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, language or communication development do not hesitate to contact your location independent speech and language therapist at www.helpwithtalking.com.
This is a guest post by Marisa Ciesla.
Marisa is a Speech and Language Therapist in private practice at Brighter Spaces Guildford.