HSC STUDY TIPS

More chil­dren turn­ing up with lan­guage dis­or­ders

The Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - Monique Hore

THE GROW­ING num­ber of chil­dren who ar­rive at school un­able to com­mu­ni­cate with teach­ers and other chil­dren is a pub­lic health cri­sis as wide­spread as obe­sity, ex­perts have warned.

The Mur­doch Chil­dren’s Re­search In­sti­tute has re­vealed de­vel­op­men­tal lan­guage dis­or­der af­fects be­tween 5-8% of chil­dren on av­er­age but the rate can be as high as 20% among dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren.

Chil­dren who can­not com­mu­ni­cate prop­erly be­cause they lack the skills are at risk of poor lit­er­acy skills, men­tal health is­sues and un­em­ploy­ment.

Lead re­searcher Pro­fes­sor James Law, from New­cas­tle Univer­sity, said it con­sti­tuted a pub­lic health is­sue.

“The peo­ple who need the ser­vices most, least get them,” he said.

“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.”

A pol­icy brief from the in­sti­tute calls for kinder­garten and early child­hood teach­ers to be bet­ter trained to spot the dis­or­der.

It also calls on par­ents and schools to pro­mote lan­guage by read­ing, con­ver­sa­tion, mu­sic and rhyme.

Re­search from Aus­tralia and over­seas has shown, with­out in­ter­ven­tion, chil­dren with a lan­guage dis­or­der con­tinue to strug­gle with lit­er­acy in their 30s.

About half of young male of­fend­ers on cus­to­dial sen­tences also have sig­nif­i­cant oral lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties.

Charles Sturt Univer­sity’s Dr Noella Macken­zie said stu­dents with the dis­or­der of­ten strug­gled in school be­cause lit­er­acy un­der­pinned ev­ery sub­ject.

She said 50% of classes in­volved read­ing and writ­ing by the time a child was eight years old.

“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 devel­op­ment lan­guage dis­or­der was an “in­vis­i­ble prob­lem”.

“Some kids are very good at mask­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties they may have,” she said.

“Rather than look­ing dumb at school, they might act up and get re­moved from the class­room.

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

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CON­CERN­ING: Charles Sturt Univer­sity’s Dr Noella Macken­zie says stu­dents with oral lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties of­ten strug­gle in school be­cause lit­er­acy un­der­pins ev­ery sub­ject.

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