August 28, 2017
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Experts claim, the growing number of children with a language disorder is a public health crisis now as widespread as obesity.

As high as 20% per cent of disadvantaged children and between 5% and 8% of children Australia-wide have a developmental language disorder according to The Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

Good communication is so fundamental to a functional life as research shows that children that have a disorder are at greater risk of poor literacy skills, mental health issues and high unemployment later in life.

Professor James Law, from Newcastle University, said “The people who need the services most, least get them,” and this constitutes a looming public health issue.

“Our feedback is that children are turning up at school with really poor communication skills. Schools are trying to teach them communication at the same time they are trying to teach them their subjects.”

Kindergarten and early childhood teachers need to be better trained to spot the disorder the institute has determined. Australia and overseas research has shown that, without proper intervention, children with a language disorder continue to struggle with literacy even in their 30s. The more parents and schools can promote language by reading, conversation, music and rhyme, the better.

Statistics on male offenders with custodial sentences are sobering given half have a significant oral language deficit. Crime can become attractive to young people who feel other avenues of achieving the life they want are closed to them due to an impediment.  

We know that children with developmental language disorder also tend to struggle in school because literacy underpins every subject, said Dr Noella Mackenzie from Charles Sturt University.

Oral language development, we know, is the building blocks for becoming literate,” Dr Mackenzie said. “It all starts with oral language and vocabulary and that becomes the base for learning to write and read. “Literacy is what allows us to learn in other disciplines. You need those skills whether you are doing science, history, mathematics. “If children can’t write, they are disadvantaged in every learning opportunity that comes their way.”

Speech Pathology Australia director Gaenor Dixon said developmental language disorder was an “invisible problem” made worse by the fact that some children are very good at masking the difficulties they may have.  “Rather than looking dumb at school, they might act up and get removed from the classroom”, Gaenor explains.

“The consequences of unsupported developmental language disorder is that kids have difficulty at school and their literacy and numeracy skills are poor.” - Herald Sun