Speech problems blamed on gadgets, games

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London - The number of children with speech difficulties has leapt 70 percent in six years, according to a study.

The rise is being blamed on the growing use of gadgets and games as “electronic babysitters”, and working parents spending less time with children.

The study, published by the Department for Education, found the number of five to 16-year-olds needing expert help for language difficulties rose 71 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Some 135,700 pupils – 2.2 percent of the age group – were classed as having difficulties in 2011. This excludes those identified as having speech difficulties but not given specialist help.

The children’s charity I CAN said other studies suggested that 1.2 million youngsters have some form of communication problem.

The charity said that half of children in some areas – particularly areas of social disadvantage – start school with delayed language skills.

Literacy consultant Sue Palmer, author of the book Toxic Childhood, wrote in a recent blog: “Although children – even babies – seem happy to be plugged into an electronic babysitter, it isn’t exposing them to the interactive real-life language they need.”

Many reasons have been put forward to explain the rising trend, said Jean Gross, trustee of I CAN, such as the demise of family meals. Teachers are also said to be better at identifying speech difficulties.

She said that busy working parents “may not have as much time to play and talk to their children”.

Edward Timpson, children and families minister, said: “It is vital that children with speech, language and communication needs get the support they deserve as soon as possible.” - Daily Mail

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