• The prevalence of speech and language impairment in school aged children is significant, with one study in NSW (McLeod & McKinnon, 2007) revealing that 13% of children at primary and secondary schools have a communication disorder.
  • Australian teachers report expressive language difficulties in around 21% of children when they enter school, and receptive language difficulties in around 16% of children (Harrison & McLeod, 2008).
  • Oral language competency is known to underpin the transition to literacy. There is strong evidence that preschool oral language deficits may predispose a child to ongoing reading difficulties throughout childhood and adolescence (Speech Pathology Australia, 2005). Approximately 16% of Australian children have difficulties learning to read (Westwood, 2001).
  • The strong link which has been established between juvenile offending and language impairment is of further concern. An Australian study (Snow & Powell, 2008) showed that over 50% of a sample of young offenders had language impairments. This has significant long term implications for the community.
  • Research has found that early intervention for speech impairment is effective (Almost & Rosenbaum, 1998; Law et al, 2003). However, children who did not receive intervention or begin intervention in the school years can continue to have difficulties into adulthood (Law et al, 1998).

 

  • The research literature clearly shows that the language learning in the early years is rapid, and that this period is crucial for language development
  • Speech and language disorders have deleterious consequences across the lifespan
  • Children who enter school with language difficulties are at risk of literacy problems, poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, social and behavioural problems and reduced employment options
  • Oral language competency in the young child is a strong protective measure against negative outcomes in later life