It has been around 2 years, and the coronavirus still lingers around in India. COVID-19 has affected each and every aspect of one’s life. It is also believed that the COVID pandemic may led to speech and communication problems in Children due to the lack of social interaction. Here, an expert answers the query for the worried parents.
Dr Suresh Birajdar, Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar said, “Even before the pandemic, there have been rising number of children with speech and communication problems or lack of social communication. There has been a concern raised whether children are suffering excessively with speech and other issues because of lockdown, social withdrawal due to social distancing, increased screen time, not having anyone to play, not going to school due to lockdown. Right now, there is no clear data or emerging trend to prove these claims. But occasionally we do see parents coming with complaints like delayed speech in children. It is likely that many parents may complain of speech problems in the coming days or months. Speech and language delays are seen in late infancy or toddlers in the age group 1-2 years. In those cases, there are conventional factors such as the family being nuclear and parents are working, having a single child, or no social interactions with other children in social settings due to pandemics. These are also risk factors for delayed speech and communication.”
Dr Birajdar added, “We are worried that speech and communication problems may arise during COVID in kids. It has also been perceived that there will be a pandemic of mental health issues in the coming years. Kids may encounter speech delays if there is no social interaction. The picture will be clear after the schools reopen full fledge and the parents have access to resources, get feedback from the teachers, playgroups, family members, neighbours and consult the experts.”
Parents need to take certain measures at home to help children overcome speech difficulties. “Try to spend some quality time with your children and make them read every day. Try to find books with large pictures so that the child can recognize them. Name and describe the pictures on each page and ask your children to repeat them after you. Story-telling by acting out is a good idea. Explain to kids to pronounce the words with action. Build on your child’s vocabulary. The parents are requested to be alert and recognize the signs of delay in speech, language development, and seek prompt help for children. Now schools have reopened, parents should encourage children to attend school, interact with their peers to overcome speech problems,” concluded Dr Birajdar.
Dr. Badshah Khan Consultant Paediatrician, Wockhardt Hospitals Mira Road said, “Just like senior citizens and adults, the pandemic has also taken a toll on children. Most of the children are getting stranger’s anxiety. Children are unable to express themselves, interact with peers, and make themselves understood. The lockdown has reduced the child’s exposure to new vocabulary. Earlier, children would go to beaches, parks and learn new things. Now, children are just at home and are unable to learn new words or pronounce them. Since we wear masks, the children are unable to lip-read and learn how to pronounce the words as they are confused. Toddlers may have speech regression owing to the lack of social contact and increased screen time. Children avoid having conversations. Lockdown has indeed hurt the child’s speech skills. Since E-learning is going on during pandemic, the children are suffering more as they are unable to meet the teachers in person. Without speech and language development, children will not grow or feel happy. The child will struggle with reading and may have mental issues in later life. Children having speech and communication problems will require speech and language therapy. Try to use simple sentences so that children can learn and use facial expressions. Avoiding going out their house, getting phobias from crowded areas.”