In Northern Ireland, as a result of the Covid-19 quarantine, more and more infants are being warned that they are experiencing serious communication problems.
Neither early childhood expert reported dealing with more children who could not speak at all and could not communicate solely by pointing or groaning.
Connie Kearns, leader of the Stay’n’Play Toddler Group, said the number of children with autistic characteristics has also increased significantly.
“I’ve never given so much advice to children with suspected autism like these days,” she said.
“We also receive a lot of calls from speech therapists who are developing programs for specific children and are asking us to work with them.
“I used to see children with communication problems, but now there are more children with problems than children without problems. But we often see the opposite of the spectrum. The children on the side.
“We have a toddler who can talk to you very clearly, is well developed for their age and can spend hours with their mom and dad during the lockout. increase.
“Then there are children whose parents are trying to work from home, homeschooling older children and taking care of their siblings.
“Now, it’s the kids who tend to have problems. There are kids who can’t speak at all, growl, or point to what they want.
“They don’t know how to talk to other kids. If you need a toy, push the other kids or get a toy.
“More and more children are unable to line up shapes and solve 3-4 piece puzzles.
“Some children are suffering because they can’t communicate, understand what they’re saying, or express themselves.
“It’s very frustrating for them and is reflected in their actions, but they’re not rude, they’re just frustrated.
Kerns said he is working hard with them to help them develop their language skills.
“It definitely increased our workload, but we want to help these kids as much as possible,” he continued.
“For example, I’m trained and use the Hanen approach (a kind of early language intervention) that I think works very well.
“These children were so affected by the closure that it’s clear to anyone who has worked with young children last year and this year.
It really influenced them because when the pandemic began, they were about two years old or younger and spent half their lives there. “
Ruth Sedgewick, director of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) in Northern Ireland, reported an increase in referrals to members’ speech therapy services.
That said, it’s not surprising that most toddlers have communication problems, as the strict isolation rules needed to limit the spread of the coronavirus significantly impede their social ability. ..
“During the quarantine, very young children are essentially separated from the world and miss all the important experiences we know to help them develop their communication and language skills.”
“There are few opportunities to connect with the outside world, and there are fewer opportunities for others to make decisions when children are struggling or need special help.
“Even as simple as spending time with grandparents, it provides a great opportunity for children to hone their communication skills.
“I know when my kids were young, I had the opportunity to go to my grandparents for a walk, see the world and talk to my neighbors and shoppers.
“We know that parents have to work from older children at home and homeschooling and take care of younger children. Tough doesn’t even start to cover it.
“Now that the quarantine is over, life isn’t really back to normal. Think of all the playgrounds of cafes, clinics and dentists. They’re no longer there, so kids have the opportunity to socialize. Is decreasing.
“Masks also had a big impact, as children can’t see the same facial expressions and it’s even harder for speech therapists to build relationships with the children they work with.”
Ms. Sedgwick said it is imperative to provide services to address the problem right now, as infants with communication problems may not reach their educational potential as they grow older. .. As a result, he said Congressional commitment to ensure that there are well-trained speech therapists to work in the area is essential.