Written By: Manuela McAndrew, C-SLPA
The past two years in the pandemic have been short of easy. With lockdowns, school closures, and social distancing, you may be asking yourself how these unexpected events have impacted your child’s development. Progressive Pediatric Therapy is here to help you answer these questions and provide you with possible solutions on how to best help your child improve with their speech and language development.
A number of recent studies have shown that through lack of social interactions, mask wearing, and passive screen time, our early language learners are suffering a negative impact on cognitive and language development. Although long term effects are yet to be determined, a study done in Rhode Island showed that children born in the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared to children born prior to the pandemic.
There are several factors that have played a large role in the delay of our children’s language development. It is important that parents are educated on what those factors are; in order to help their children make up for lost time and recognize the missed language opportunities that have occurred during the pandemic.
- Mask wearing: While masks have played a pivotal role in reducing the infection of COVID-19, they have also created a variety of obstacles for our children.
- Masks have taken away the ability for children to pick up on facial expressions and non-social cues that are imperative for the growth of pragmatic and social language development.
- Additionally, studies by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, have shown that wearing masks can make communication more difficult for developing children. Masks can muffle sounds, making it hard for children to understand high pitched voices and speech. Masks also take away the ability to read lips which helps us to better understand what is being said.
- ASHA also reported that masks can pose challenges for children who stutter. Masks can reduce cue’s for speakers to be aware of blocks (long silent pauses, frequently experienced by those who stutter), which can cause misinterpretation of what is being communicated by the child.
- Social interactions: Day care/school closures, as well as social distancing measures, have reduced the possibility for meaningful social interactions among children.
- Social interactions such as talking with loved ones and peers, are crucial for language development and pragmatic development.
- Skills that may be impacted due to lack of social engagement include, lack of conversational skills, difficulty with turn taking and inability to understand the meaning of words or non literal language.
- Excessive screen time: Working from home, home schooling, and limited outings have not made parenting any easier for anyone. Parents are faced with impossible choices on how to balance their workload, provide meaningful activities to keep their children busy, and ensure that they are receiving effective education through virtual school. This can lead to excessive use of tablets and television that can negatively impact your child’s language development.
- Reduced vocabulary, inability to functionally ask questions, and missed interactions with family members are just a few of the consequences of passive screen time on language development.
- One study found a strong correlation between media consumption and poor language development, showing that the more videos a child watched regularly, the less words the child said or knew.
- Studies have also shown that the children who watch more than two hours of television a day, were six times more likely to develop a language delay.
Despite the obstacles in place, Progressive Pediatric Therapy is here to help through effective Speech and Language therapy. Our therapists will provide useful coaching and carry over strategies that will help your children thrive and master those speech and language milestones that may be lagging a bit behind.