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Covid lockdown has damaged toddlers’ speech and motor skills, official figures show

Covid lockdown significantly damaged toddlers’ speech and motor skills as they weren’t given the opportunity to play and learn to communicate, official figures reveal

  • Nearly 20% of toddlers are not reaching expected levels of development, figures show
  • Specialists are ‘very concerned’ for toddlers struggling with communication difficulties
  • They warn that behavior problems can develop without prompt intervention

Young children who have not been able to learn to communicate and play during the pandemic are now facing declining speech and motor skills, experts have warned.

Specialists are now ‘very worried’ for toddlers struggling to figure out how to communicate amid ‘growing lists and waiting times for speech therapy’.

Figures show nearly one in five children are not meeting expected developmental standards by the time they reach two-and-a-half, making gaps “harder to bridge”, reports the Telegraph.

Young children who have been unable to learn to communicate and play during the pandemic are now facing declining speech and motor skills, experts have warned (file photo used)

Speaking to the outlet, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) chief executive Kamini Gadhok said: ‘Our members tell us that growing lists and waiting times for speech therapy are having a tremendous impact on their ability to provide the support children need for the best start in life.

She added that without prompt intervention, young children may be more likely to suffer from behavioral problems or emotional difficulties.

According to the latest data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities – from October to December 2021 – on average, 79.6% of children who had a two- to two-year check-up and a half during the quarter were at or above expected level in all five areas of development.

This figure was higher (82.7 to 81.9%) in previous quarters for which summary results are available.

This follows an influx of concerns about post-Covid child development.

Researchers recently claimed that infants born during the pandemic are not reaching normal speech development milestones for babies their age.

Specialists are 'very concerned' for toddlers struggling to figure out how to communicate (stock photo used)

Specialists are ‘very concerned’ for toddlers struggling to figure out how to communicate (stock photo used)

According to Forbes, two recent studies have used a new device called a ‘voice pedometer’, which measures the level of verbal interaction in young children.

It sits in a vest worn by babies and toddlers and records the amount of vocalizations – words, babbling, cooing and other noises – a child produces, as well as the number of words spoken by nearby adults.

Conversation pedometers also record the number of rounds of conversation or “brief bouts of back and forth dialogue” the child engages in.

Researchers from LENA, a non-profit organization that conducted one of the studies, analyzed talk pedometer recordings obtained from more than 600 infants, ages zero to nine months, and determined that those born during the pandemic vocalized less and experienced fewer conversational turns.

A separate Brown University study, using the school’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab – which has followed more than 1,700 families with young children since 2010 – found broadly similar results.

Data from the Ivy League revealed that just one year into the pandemic, children’s average cognitive performance was at the lowest rate since the study began.

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