Pandemic Contributing to a Speech delay in toddlers. Experts have noticed a rise in problems among young children, with a prevalence of speech sound disorders (SSD) such as stuttering, apraxia, lack of social communication and other impairments affecting around nine per cent of kids. Also, Masks obscure facial expressions which, from the outset, is an integral part of speech development. However, the Paediatrician at the civic and state-run hospitals have not come across any case where toddlers or kids have faced speech-sound disorders.
Dr Fazal Nabi, Director Paediatrics, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre said there has been a 2.5 fold rise in behaviour issues, developmental issues which were earlier found in kids. Earlier they used to see such cases once in two months now they are seeing more frequently (once a week) be it behavioural issues, language development, speech issues. Even the European countries have reported a 2.5 folds increase in the incidence of behavioural issues.
“We request parents to stay alert, & watch so that any sign can be picked up early if there is a delay in language development, writing skills. Reasons being lack of physical activity, staying in isolation, more screen time has contributed to developmental issues. Proper advice and early pick up of any of these signs can help a child with delayed development. Now that schools have reopened, Parents should encourage children to go to school, group activities for a normal course of development,” he said.
A senior paediatrician from the state-run hospitals on condition of anonymity said they have not come across any such cases where toddlers or kids are complaining of SSD. Moreover, there is no proper study that can be correlated that kids are facing problems in speech sound. “All kids are normal and none of them has shown any speech sound disorders (SSD) such as stuttering, apraxia, or lack of social communication. We cannot jump to conclusions based on observation as there is a need for proper study,” he said.
Dr Jesal Sheth, Senior Consultant-Paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund said COVID19 has hampered social gatherings across housing societies, workplaces, family settings as well as at home. Toddlers are lacking school exposure in the current scenario, with bilateral communications hampered. “We do see a slight increase in delayed speech amongst toddlers during the pandemic as compared to before. But hopefully, it will be covered up once kids will go to regular schools, interact with their peers, engage with the community and when the pandemic will end,” she said.