Hanover (dpa) – According to a study, the number of children and young people in Germany affected by language disorders has been increasing for years – also in the Corona crisis. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of affected 6 to 18 year olds grew by around nine percent, and among 15 to 18 year olds by almost 21 percent. This emerges from data from the KKH commercial health insurance company in Hanover.
In a ten-year comparison since 2011, the number of those affected has increased by a total of 58 percent – an increase of 59.4 percent was registered for girls and 56.7 percent for boys. Speech and language disorders in children and adolescents include a limited vocabulary, difficulties in articulating sounds or forming sentences, or poor grammar. According to its own information, the KKH is one of the largest nationwide statutory health insurance companies with around 1.6 million insured persons.
According to the KKH, an average of 8.1 percent of children and adolescents were affected last year – after 5.2 percent ten years earlier. In the 6 to 10 age group, the proportion of children with language disorders was 16.0 percent, in the 11 to 14 year olds it was 5.5 percent and in the 15 to 18 year olds 2.4 percent .
According to the health insurance company, the corona pandemic with all its limitations has made it difficult for many children to develop language skills. Homeschooling and a lack of social contacts meant that many people missed direct contact with teachers and, above all, with their peers. Because daycare centers and schools were repeatedly closed, some speech disorders also went undetected – closed speech therapy practices were added.
“But organic causes such as hearing problems and genetic predisposition or excessive use of smartphones, PCs and televisions can also be the cause of language deficits,” explained Vijitha Sanjivkumar from the health insurance company’s medical competence team. “And sometimes the developmental language disorder cannot be assigned an identifiable cause.” The health insurance company also expects an increase in logopedic treatments for small children. Because of corona-related hygiene regulations such as protective masks or contact restrictions, “the complex language acquisition of today’s two- and three-year-olds through communicative experience with sound formation, reading lip movements or facial expressions was restricted,” said Sanjivkumar.
However, according to the KKH, the data also shows that language and speech cause problems for more older children and young people. The number of affected 11- to 14-year-olds rose by around 107 percent between 2011 and 2021, and among 15- to 18-year-olds by as much as 151 percent. Speech development disorders are usually diagnosed by the pediatrician. Sanjivkumar advised parents: “Read to your child, play games with them and develop stories or rhymes together, have conversations and debates with each other. When communicating, pay attention to your child and look at them. Letting them finish is also good important.”
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