A new toolkit which can identify very young children with speech, language and communication problems will now be utilized by Health Visitors in the UK. Health staff will utilize a simple word list and child observation (also known as ELIM or Early Language Identification Measure) during home visits for children aged two and a half.
The research, which was recently published in a new Public Health England report, was led by Newcastle University with the University of Aberdeen. Results show that the ELIM can identify 94% of toddlers with early language needs.
Identifying these issues is critically important due to the fact that many studies show children with delayed language development do worse at school and have poorer outcomes later in life. In addition, delayed language development can also signal other developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
University of Aberdeen Professor of Primary Care and Rural Health, Phil Wilson, said: “Early language problems are strongly associated with a range of developmental problems in childhood. They are also a powerful predictor of poor physical and mental health later in life, so it is important to pick them up in a reliable way.
James Law, Professor of Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, who led the study, said: “Early speech and language delays can be a worry for parents and professionals alike and researchers have been looking for ways to accurately identify children who would benefit from help. The research suggests the Early Language Identification Measure does just this and more accurately than others.
The goal of this early identification is to get the right help for the children quickly as possible. In addition, health workers will be able to help point parents to resources which would help them better understand their children’s needs.
In 2018 a team led by Professor Law was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education (DfE) to develop a measure of language skills and an accompanying intervention for children attending their health visitor review at 24 and 30 months of age. The project ran between January 2019 and July 2020.
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