Pandemic could be affecting children’s speech development

Speech development can be inhibited by the pandemic.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 12:58 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Shawna Ross is a speech pathologist in Reno. She says different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic could be slowing speech development in some kids.

One of her first grade students was struggling for months to make the “k” sound. Ross thinks masking might have held her back.

“In April, she was able to make the sound and we had a little dance party and got very excited. And I said ‘why do you think you were able to do it now?’ and she said because I can see what your mouth is doing,” Ross explained.

For other kids, it could be extra stress at home.

“If the parents are suffering with mental health issues or dealing with job loss, their interaction can change and then that can affect development,” Ross said.

Many of these parents also struggled to find resources for their kids during the lockdown.

“We don’t know if it’s the masks or extra stressors and we probably will never know,” she said.

Regardless of the reason, Ross has seen an increase in the number of students she works with at a charter school in town.

“In prior years, we had about 5 to 7 percent of the school population and it’s up to 9 percent of kids who are needing speech help,” Ross said.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says there are currently no studies that directly assess the long-term impact of masking on children’s speech development.

Ross says the best thing you can do is bring your child to a speech pathologist when they’re young.

“There are red flags and warning signs that we can start identifying at 18 months to two years,” she said.

She says early intervention is crucial and can help break speech habits before they form.

Learn more about speech development milestones here.

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