For a lot of parents, they are always looking forward to seeing their child achieve or reach the next milestone in their life. Whether it’s learning how to sit, crawl, walk, or even sing, every little moment is a precious one, especially for mom and dads. But at the same time, plenty of parents know that no two kids are alike and that each child has their own timeline when it comes to their development. But when it comes to language skills, should parents be concerned if their child is not saying enough or doing enough by a certain age or stage?
According to a new study, many children with undiagnosed language problems are more likely to have a hard time learning in school. This means that if parents detect any language issues earlier in their lives, it’s best if they act accordingly rather than wait for the issue to correct itself, so to speak.
San Diego State University psychology professor Margaret Friend believes that the vocabulary assessment tests that are usually given to toddlers are not designed to tap into those words that are most important for predicting language development in the future.
In other words, there are parents who do have concerns about their child’s language development but more often than not are dismissed by their pediatrician or health professional. That’s because they have a “wait and see” approach when it comes to toddlers and their possible language and communicative disorders.
Friend puts it this way, “Interestingly, studies show that, in the United States and Canada, roughly 40 to 50 percent of children age 7 to 14 referred for psychological services have an undiagnosed language problem. What this suggests is that there are many children for whom a language problem is not identified until at least school entry and that, when a problem is not identified, it can manifest in ways that are interpreted as signs of a different sort of problem."
That’s why Friend and her team of researchers suggest that parents go beyond just teaching kids vocabulary words. Instead, have them focus on concepts. For example, a child might recognize the word "milk" when it’s given to them for breakfast in the morning. But parents should go beyond that and teach a child the origins of milk, point it out at a grocery store and so forth.
Also, by focusing on concepts, it is easier to detect if your child might have a language delay later on. Friend and her team were able to identify those children who were at risk for language problems a full two years before they even began Kindergarten.
"Work must continue to help identify children at risk for language problems early to make it easier for them and their families to get the support they need to be successful," Friend said. "As the economist James Heckman has pointed out, early investment in children's development produces the greatest returns for children, their families and society."
If you feel as though your child’s language development might be delayed or if you have any additional concerns, definitely speak to your child’s pediatrician or a trusted health professional that can assist you and your family.