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Monday, January 5, 2009

Two-year-olds 'to be screened for speech problems'

By John Bingham

Two-year-olds 'to be screened for speech problems'
Insufficient stimulation and too little interaction with young children could have an effect on their ability to communicate properly Photo: GETTY

An ambitious nationwide screening programme for two-year-olds is reportedly being considered to tackle the problem which experts say is now more prevalent than dyslexia or autism.

The decline of the traditional family meal time, the long-hours culture in the parents' workplaces, poor childcare with little stimulation and social deprivation are also being blamed.

Barely a 10th of children in some areas can repeat even one nursery rhyme and, in extreme cases, some do not even know their own name.

The screening programme is being considered after a review into services for children with speech problems led by the Tory MP John Bercow.

Tests could be carried out by health visitors in a similar way to that in which they check eyesight, hearing and general development.

Mr Bercow concluded that children with untreated speech difficulties are at risk of ending up unemployed, experiencing mental health problems and involved in crime.

"If children are in a home in which they are getting insufficient stimulation, where there is not enough interaction, or where communication through the spoken word is not as common or extensive or imaginative as it might be, that is bound to have an impact," he told the Daily Mail.

"The reality is that for far too long, speech and language problems have been under-recognised."

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