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While the world may be trying its best to move on from the corona virus pandemic, there is no doubt that the impact is still being felt in many ways. My son turned 1 shortly before the UK went into its first lockdown. My middle daughter was at nursery and my eldest was in year 3. Over night our world shrank. Instead of going to baby groups, nursery or even meeting up with friends we were at home every day. At 1 and 4, my younger children were both at key ages for learning basic skills, like talking, communicating and socialising. Looking back, it’s easy for me to see how significantly they were affected.
My son’s mobility was impacted due to staying at home with his ability to run and jump and stamina for walking all significantly behind his sisters’ at the same age.
Yes, children naturally develop at different rates. However, there is a growing body of evidence showing the delays on babies and children’s early development due to lockdowns, social distancing and the reduction in face-to-face interactions.
Two years after that first lockdown, my children have caught up in some areas. My son can now walk normal distances for his age and finally having a full year in the classroom (in year 1). This has made a huge difference to my daughter’s ability to form friendships and interact with others compared to a year ago. There are areas where it is taking longer to catch up though and I think these are areas which need more regular and sustained effort to improve: talking, reading and writing.
My son has attended part time nursery for the last 18 months. His speech has hugely improved in this time, but it is still slightly behind what is expected for his age. He isn’t alone. When my daughters were at nursery, I don’t remember hearing any conversations about speech delays, but I now regularly talk to parents who are concerned about their children. And that’s just the parents who suspect there are problems.
Unless you are a childcare professional or have had a lot of experience around young children, there is a good chance you won’t know what their expected milestones are. It can also be hard to compare your child to their peers now you are less likely to be invited into nursery. My son is part of a generation who seem particularly shy around people they don’t know. I only hear a handful of children his age talking which, again, makes it hard to get a frame of reference for the level his peers are at.
At my son’s 2 to 3 year check with the Health Visitor (via video call) he met the minimum requirements for communication skills. However, his key worker at nursery who had spent a significant amount of time with him, assessed his language skills at the same time (using EYFS Framework) as in the 16-26 months range at 34 months, and we agreed a number of actions to help support his speech development.
If you feel that your child may have a speech delay then it is helpful to get them assessed and get the right advice on how to help them.
The UK are struggling with the large increase in demand on their services and they have to prioritise the more severe cases and those reaching school age. Younger children, especially pandemic babies who are nearly twice at risk of communication developmental delays are unlikely to be prioritised yet, intervention now can make a big difference. This is where private support can really help.
Read more on Counting to Ten, by Kate Kirk, blog on options for accessing support and a noala promotional subscription code.
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