Early Vocabulary Delay May Mean Therapy Later

January 8, 2016By: VocoVision

A new study from Penn State University shows that toddlers who demonstrate vocabulary delays end up needing speech therapy later in life. However, the language spoken in the home, as well as race play a role in whether or not the children actually receive these services.

The study was published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Policy in November, and it aimed to settle the debate on whether or not speaking later in life is a risk factor for later development.

The study took a look at data from 10,000 children born in 2001. The data included the size of the children’s vocabulary at age two, as well as assessments in math and reading when the children were either four or five years old.

The analysis determined that children who had vocabulary delays by age two were able to predict whether or not the child would need speech therapy between the ages of two and five years. Analyzing the data deeper to look at the children who needed services by race and ethnicity showed that minority children were not as likely to get the services they needed compared to white children with a similar need, at a similar age.

Disparities in services existed at around 45 to 60% less likely to receive the needed services, regardless of the child’s age. Hispanic children are at the higher end of the spectrum for a reduced likelihood of receiving helpful services, likely due to the fact that English isn’t the primary language spoken at home.

Research shows that in order to reduce the need for therapy later in life, early intervention to close the vocabulary gaps and address speech issues is necessary. Not only this, but there needs to be adjustments made to ensure therapy services are available across cultural barriers and in other languages, to ensure all minorities are able to access the services they need as well.

Children who get the therapy they need even before entering school have better communication skills, and if the therapy continues through school, the benefits are even greater. The research indicates there is a correlation between the size of a child’s vocabulary at age two not only predicts academic success, but behavioral patterns in Kindergarten as well. Those with larger vocabularies performed better on their math and reading assessments, and were better able to regulate their behavior, attention span, and their ability to stay on task.

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