Communication is one of the most foundational skills that develop during early childhood. During this time, children begin to understand and process the world around them, as well as express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
When speech and language skills are hindered or underdeveloped, it can take a toll on a child's social and emotional well-being. For young children, the inability to make themselves understood, or process their emotions, may lead to self-isolation, temper tantrums, or other behavioral issues.
Older children that have speech problems may also experience a variety of social and emotional challenges. For example, children who stutter can experience poor confidence, be withdrawn, or limit their interaction with peers for fear of being teased. Those with a developmental language disorder may know exactly what they want to say, but be unable to translate their thoughts into coherent sentences, causing frustration and short-temperedness.
In one hallmark study that spanned 29 years, it was found that children with delays in their receptive language skills--the ability to understand what others are saying and process information--were at greater risk for social, emotional, and behavioral problems as adults. The researchers used standardized tests to measure the receptive language skills in approximately 7,000 children at age 5. They followed up with these same children at age 34 and found that they were more likely to experience mental health problems than those who did not experience language delays.
The researchers ultimately came to this conclusion: “The needs of children with language problems are complex and call for early and continuing provision of educational support and services.”
How speech and language problems affect academic performance
The emotional effects on children who struggle with speech and language skills can become more pronounced once they enter school. Suddenly, they are surrounded by children their own age, interacting and socializing with kids that may be more advanced in their communication abilities. Children are astute observers of their environment, and these differences in development can become noticeable, leading many children to become self-conscious about their own abilities.
Academic performance can often suffer as a result. In fact, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, children with communication problems are more likely to struggle with reading and writing skills.
The more children focus on their own self-image, or fear being teased or rejected by their peers, the less time they spend focused on reading, writing, comprehension, and other skills essential for academic success. In addition, classroom participation and interpersonal relationships can also suffer. Poor grades and lower confidence can contribute to this cycle of self-doubt if children don’t receive proper intervention.
Could your child benefit from speech therapy?
All children develop at their own pace, with a wide spectrum of speech and language development across all age groups. Therefore, strictly comparing your child’s communication abilities to their peers isn’t always a clear signal that they have an issue.
With that said, it can be tough for parents to determine whether their child is experiencing a slight delay that they’ll naturally overcome with time, or if there is a more severe problem that could worsen or persist into adulthood.
It’s generally advised to err on the side of caution and speak with your pediatrician, teacher, or a speech therapist if you notice your child struggling with communication. Since children’s speech patterns become more habitual overtime, earlier intervention is often recommended. Speech therapists are communication experts. After assessing and diagnosing your child, they'll develop an individualized treatment plan to help improve your child's communication abilities. Speech therapy will contribute to their academic, emotional, and social success.
Many caregivers looking for a more affordable and convenient alternative to traditional, in-person speech therapy choose to receive services online. Online speech therapy enables parents to be actively involved in their child’s progress, often sitting alongside their child during sessions so they can learn and reinforce best practices throughout their child’s daily activities.