Education & Family

Parents 'wrongly blamed for speech problems'

Long-term speech and language problems are wrongly being blamed on parents not talking to their children and too much television, research suggests.

A survey for the Communication Trust reveals common misconceptions about the cause of serious communication difficulties.

The charity says the exact cause of such problems is often unknown.

Parents know more about milestones in the development of walking than of talking, it adds.

The poll of 6,000 people, including 3,000 parents, was carried out to explore perceptions about children's speech and language development.

It suggested half of parents thought serious communication difficulties were caused by parents not talking to their children enough.

One in six blamed excessive TV-watching or computer use.

However, one in five of those polled considered biological or genetic reasons as a possible cause of problems.

The research for government-backed charitable group the Communication Trust also suggested that one in three parents have had concerns about their children's speech and language development.

It is being published to launch the group's year-long "Hello" campaign to improve services for children with speech and language problems. The group of 40 bodies involved in tackling communication problems is working to improve access to specialist help and support.

The survey also revealed that many people know little about the talking milestones a child should reach.

Just one in four parents (25%) knew that on average, babies say their first word at between 12 and 18 months, while almost a third (31%) expected it to be at six to eight months.

England's communication tsar Jean Gross said the public understanding of children's communication difficulties remained worryingly low.

"The automatic response seems to be to blame parents or technology.

"This just isn't right. We need to clear up the confusion and myths that exist around the subject."

"Ten per cent of children, that's two to three in every classroom, have some form of long term communication difficulty that can affect them early, severely and for life.

"Their brains don't process language in quite the same way that other children's brains do."

She added: "For every child it is great for parents to talk to them and for the TV to be turned off for part of the time, but we should not be blaming parents for this big group of children's problems - these are based on biological difficulties."

There were two groups of children, she explained, those with communication problems based on the way they had been nurtured and those based on nature.

The survey was carried out for the Communication Trust on 19 and 20 January online by polling organisation One Poll.

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