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Impact of coronavirus on speech and language development

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Services that traditionally had relied on face-to-face contact with families and young people have had to adapt and change the way they worked due to COVID-19.

Devon’s Public Health Nursing service, including Health Visitors and School Nurses were quick to respond in March 2020, using online and remote ways to continue working with parents to support the developmental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people.

Alongside partners in education and children’s centres, health visitors and school nurses have continued to provide support for those most at need throughout the pandemic.

“Children’s lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19”, says Sarah Miller, Speech and Language Advisor.

“The disruption to services, changes to education provision and the additional pressures within families have meant that some children will be struggling to achieve their potential despite the huge effort and tireless work of schools and services across the county.”

The impact of COVID-19 on children’s language development in particular is the focus of local and national interest.

Research shows that one of the reasons why children can find it difficult to find their way in life is because they struggle to communicate.

A child’s ability to understand and use speech and language at a young age is vital for their development, and if they don’t develop the skills needed to interact with others, it can have a lasting and profound impact in adulthood, affecting their mental health, their educational attainment, employability, social mobility, and increase their vulnerability.

Sarah said:

“During these last 12 months, we’ve been working hard to raise awareness among parents and carers, and professionals of very young children, to help them understand the importance of speech and language and how we all have a vital role in supporting children to be able to communicate as effectively as possible.

“Lots of resources and support networks are being developed and promoted to help people feel more confident in supporting their child’s language development and to know what to do if they have a concern.

“We are very excited at how this work is going. We want to celebrate this and encourage more people to get involved.”

Across the county, parents and carers are working together with professionals to improve communication services and support for children and young people aged 0 to 25 years, with a focus specifically on children from pre-birth to 5 years old.

On Wednesday 21 April, the Improving Access to Communication Services and Support Programme (IACSS), of which Devon County Council is part, is hosting a free online event for parents and professionals, to promote the importance of positive speech, language and communication messages for children’s aged 0-5 years to support their development.

It’s called ‘Let’s Get Chatting’. To attend, please visit the Eventbrite website.