TV and computers wrongly blamed for children's speech problems

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One in six parents wrongly blame watching too much TV and technology as the most common cause of speech and language difficulties in young children, a new survey suggests.

The findings were released in a new poll released to mark the launch of 'Hello', the national year of communication.

The Government-backed campaign, spearheaded by communication champion Jean Gross with the Communication Trust, a coalition of 40 organisations specialising in speech, language and communication, aims to make children’s communication development a priority in nurseries, schools and homes.

The national year will spread information to help parents spot whether children are struggling with their communication development and where to go for help and support.

Ms Gross said, ‘Public understanding of children’s communication difficulties remains worryingly low. The automatic response seems to be to blame parents or technology. This just isn’t right. We need to clear up the confusion and myths that exist around this subject.

'These results reinforce the need for the Hello campaign to radically improve understanding of speech, language and communication difficulties and the impact this has on children’s lives.’

More than one million children and young people in the UK - equivalent to two or three children in every classroom - have some form of long-term communication difficulty.

The OnePoll survey of 6,000 people – just under half parents of children under five – found that there was widespread ignorance about children’s speech and language development:

•    More than a third of parents thought that a seven-year-old with language difficulties would eventually catch up with his peers, but this is not the case for the majority of children, who will never catch up.
•    Only 25 per cent of parents knew that on average babies say their first words between 12 and 18 months.
•    Parents rated reading as the most important skill for primary children, but children learn most through talking and understanding skills, and  50 per cent to 90 per cent of children with persistent speech, language and communication skills go on to have problems reading.

Virginia Beardshaw, chief executive of I CAN, a founder member of the Communciation Trust, said, ‘If these misunderstandings and myths persist, two to three children in an average class may miss out on the vital help they need and will be left behind. Communication is the basis from which all children learn and achieve and is essential for improving life chances. Yet while speech and language problems affect three times as many children as dyslexia and ten times as many as autism, public awareness remains very low.’

She added, ‘One in ten children is frustrated, often misunderstood and unable to express their thoughts and feelings because of their long-term communication difficulties. This affects whether they can make friends, learn and achieve their potential. It is crucial that 2011 is the beginning of change for children across the UK with speech, language and communication needs.’

Further information

www.hello.org.uk

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