Children with persistent speech disorder are likely to struggle socially

Children with persistent speech disorder are likely to struggle socially
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Children with persistent speech disorder often experience more difficulty than their peers in making friends and maintaining relationships, according to new research.

Researchers from the University of Bristol conducted a study using data from the world-renowned longitudinal study Children of the 90s (also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, ALSPAC).

The results of the study have been Published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Advances.

The researchers examined data collected from 7,390 participants of Children of the 90s study. The participants attended the clinic at eight years of age. The study tracked outcomes for behaviour and depression and was measured using questionnaires and interviews at ages ten, 11, and 14.

Persistent speech disorder was not linked to antisocial behaviour

The study aimed to understand whether children with persistent speech disorder (who struggle to make themselves understood and may be difficult to understand or barely intelligible) also experience increased levels of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD). The researchers also wanted to know whether speech disorder led to a risk of negative consequences in later life.

The researchers found that children who had a persistent speech disorder at eight years old were more likely to have peer problems at age ten to 11 years compared to their peers. However, children with speech disorders did not appear to be at an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms at the age of ten or becoming involved in antisocial and risk-taking behaviour at ages 11 to 14.

Informing future health policy

The researchers believe that understanding the relationships between persistent speech disorder and SEBD can inform education and health services, helping them ensure that children at risk are identified and offered the best possible support.

“Bristol’s Children of the 90s has collected health data from thousands of children throughout their lives and this gives us a unique opportunity to study persistent speech disorder in children. Our findings demonstrate that persistent speech problems can impact on other aspects of a child’s development. It is therefore important to monitor and support any child with persistent speech problems throughout their school years. Particularly post-COVID-19, when for some children, speech development was delayed by lockdown,” said Dr Yvonne Wren, associate professor in Speech and Communication at the Bristol Dental School.

“Speech and Language Therapists, education and health staff need to be aware that children with persistent speech disorder are at risk of experiencing difficulties with peer relationships and emotions in school. Early intervention might also help reduce any negative consequences in older childhood and adolescence,” she concluded.

The researchers hope their findings will highlight the importance of identifying children with persistent speech disorder and those with a history of the condition, throughout their primary and secondary school years, ensuring that the correct support is in place.


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