Effects of the pandemic?: More children have speech disorders

When children learn to speak, it is a complex process.

Effects of the pandemic?: More children have speech disorders

When children learn to speak, it is a complex process. Finding the causes of speech disorders is therefore not always easy. The number of children affected is increasing. Various corona measures are suspected of inhibiting children's language development, but there are other reasons as well.

According to a study, the number of children and young people in Germany affected by language disorders has been increasing for years - also during the Corona crisis. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of affected 6 to 18 year olds grew by around nine percent, and among 15 to 18 year olds by almost 21 percent. This emerges from data from the KKH commercial health insurance company in Hanover.

In a ten-year comparison since 2011, the number of those affected has increased by a total of 58 percent - an increase of 59.4 percent was registered for girls and 56.7 percent for boys. Speech and language disorders in children and adolescents include a limited vocabulary, difficulties in articulating sounds or forming sentences, or poor grammar. According to its own information, the KKH is one of the largest nationwide statutory health insurance companies with around 1.6 million insured persons.

According to the KKH, an average of 8.1 percent of children and adolescents were affected last year - after 5.2 percent ten years earlier. In the 6 to 10 age group, the proportion of children with language disorders was 16.0 percent, in the 11 to 14 year olds it was 5.5 percent and in the 15 to 18 year olds 2.4 percent .

According to the health insurance company, the corona pandemic with all its limitations has made it difficult for many children to develop language skills. Homeschooling and a lack of social contacts meant that many people missed direct contact with teachers and, above all, with their peers. Because daycare centers and schools were repeatedly closed, some speech disorders also went undetected - closed speech therapy practices were added.

"But organic causes such as hearing problems and genetic predisposition or excessive use of smartphones, PCs and televisions can also be the cause of language deficits," explained Vijitha Sanjivkumar from the health insurance company's medical competence team. "And sometimes the developmental language disorder cannot be assigned an identifiable cause.

"The health insurance company also expects an increase in speech therapy treatments for small children. Due to corona-related hygiene regulations such as protective masks or contact restrictions, "the complex language acquisition of today's two and three-year-olds through communicative experience with sound formation, reading lip movements or facial expressions was limited," said Sanjivkumar .

However, according to the KKH, the data also shows that language and speaking cause problems for more older children and young people. The number of affected 11- to 14-year-olds increased by around 107 percent between 2011 and 2021, and by 151 percent among 15- to 18-year-olds. Speech development disorders are usually diagnosed by the pediatrician. Sanjivkumar advised parents: "Read to your child, play games with them and develop stories or rhymes together, have conversations and debates with each other. When communicating, pay attention to your child and look at them. Letting them finish is also good important."

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