Be concerned with children’s speech delay

Until a certain issue prompts a discussion about language, society takes such important tool of life for granted.

Language can be oral or vocal, which is in contrast with a sign language as that is produced with the body, particularly the hands.

Both vocal and sign languages can be in the written form.

However, people usually interact by means of speech because even illiterates and children who are yet to learn reading and writing can use it.

Therefore, any discussion about speech must be of concern to society because it forms the basis of the development of language and its use.

A speech and language therapist at the University of Ghana, Mr

Clement Amponsah, has broached a discussion about speech development of children, which deserves attention.

Mr Amponsah says time spent on hand-held communication devices like tablets and smart phones has been identified to cause delay in expressive speech among children under two years of age.

Siding with other experts, he explains expressive speech as the child’s ability to use his sounds and words together to communicate.

He refers to some studies and conclusions by the experts that the more time children under two years of age spend playing with smartphones, tablets and other  screens, the more likely their speech could delay.

This is interesting because speech delay has usually been attributed to biological (medical) and environmental factors excluding these gadgets.

Some of the biological factors are birth asphyxia, seizure disorder, oro-pharyngeal (physical) deformity and autism, whereas the environmental factors include multilingual family setting and inadequate stimulation that could be due to family discord or other factors.

What Mr Amponsah is simply saying is that hand-held communication devices have joined the environmental factors and so need to be watched.

According to him, studies have proven that every 30 minutes in additional hand-held screen time has a 49 per cent increased risk of expressive speech delay.

He has therefore advised parents to not allow their children under two years of age to spend more time than necessary on such gadgets.

The advice must be taken seriously because deficiency in expressive speech is said to make children tend to use their bodies to try to communicate or use attention-seeking behaviours.

 The attention-seeking behaviours may include unnecessary crying and temper tantrums and when not dealt with adequately, the result(s) in adult life is/are unpleasant.

It is recorded, for instance, that adult temper tantrums occur when a person cannot cope with negative emotions or is unable to calm himself down.

The adult tantrums can be verbal, physical or both in which cases the person might shout, curse, slam doors, kick or throw objects around. 

Every child must develop intelligible speech and language as that is a useful sign of his overall development and intellect.

It is, therefore, important that families heed the advice from the speech therapist in addition to looking out for other signs of speech delay among their children as timely identification of the signs can allow early intervention.

Language is so much important for everyone’s progress that any factor that would delay its development or cause its deficiency must be addressed.

There is no dispute that it allows us to form connections, influence decisions, and motivate change and so without it, we would lack the ability to progress in the working world and in life in general.

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