Language Development Delays
Children acquire specific language skills at widely varying ages. By age 3,
however, children who have not met developmental milestones may need to be screened
for language delays or disorders. Early intervention is crucial. In general,
the risk for reading difficulties is greatest when a language delay or disorder
is severe and persistent (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Kaderavek & Sulzby,
1998, in press).
At children's routine checkups from infancy through preschool years, health
care professionals can watch for language development delays. Burns, Griffin,
and Snow (1999) note that health care professionals can screen children for
the following kinds of risk:
- "Severe cognitive deficits. Within the normal range, IQ is moderately
associated with future reading ability. But severe cognitive deficits are
usually associated with very low, if any, reading achievement.
- Hearing impairment. It has been well documented that children with
hearing impairments are at risk of future reading difficulties. Although hard-of-hearing
children tend to do better than deaf children, they are still at risk, even
if they have good speaking abilities.
- Early language impairment. Children acquire language at tremendously
variable rates during the first four years of life. Yet some children are
clearly behind by age 2 or 3. This is an important signal. Delayed language
development can be the first warning of a pervasive developmental disability,
hearing impairment, or neurological problem. Any of these conditions puts
a child at risk of future reading difficulties. Often an evaluation by a speech-language
professional reveals that these children have early language impairment. About
40 to 75 percent of preschoolers with such an impairment develop reading difficulties
later--often along with other academic problems.
- Expressive and receptive language delays. Children's development
of language during preschool years is strongly related to how well they will
later learn to read. An infant's achievement of 'expressive' language milestones
appears to have a particularly strong link to later reading achievement. Assessment
of these milestones is part of regular well-baby visits and can be used to
identify chidren at risk." (p. 136)
For further information on children's developmental milestones and early
detection of learning disabilities, refer to Early
Warning Signs (Public Libraries Learning Disabilities Initiative, n.d.).
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