Toddlers’ speech and motor skills have dropped sharply in the wake of the pandemic, official data show. The Telegraph has the story.

Experts said that repeated lockdowns had left young children without the chance to play and learn how to communicate, setting back their development.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) raised fears that the gaps being witnessed now could widen in coming years, with increasing numbers of children struggling at school because basic skills were never learned.

Assessments show that one in five children are not meeting expected standards by the age of two-and-a-half, with thousands likely to need help such as speech and language therapy.

The figures came amid warnings from speech and language therapists that they are facing increasing demand, with one in three saying referrals have doubled since the pandemic.

Figures published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities show that 79.6% of children who received a review last autumn met the expected level in all five areas of development measured.

Across the preceding three-and-a-half years covered by the data, the figure was 83.1%, the Health Service Journal reported…

Communication skills suffered one of the most significant falls in performance, according to data. Just 85.3% of children hit the expected standard, down from 88.1% over the previous 14 quarters.

Dr Doug Simkiss, the chairman of the British Association for Community Child Health, said: “The pandemic reduced the opportunities for children to play with other children and highlights the importance of nurseries and early years settings for language development.”

Worth reading in full.

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