Have your toddler or preschooler evaluated if you are worried about her language development.

Psychological Factors That Affect Language Development in Children

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Don't feel bad if your toddler or preschooler has language or speech challenges. The most common development delay involves problems with expressing and receiving information. In fact, one out of five children will talk or use words later than their peers, explains HealthyChildren.org a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. You and your little one may become understandably frustrated when she is unable to effectively communicate. A number of psychological factors can lead to language delays.

1. Child Abuse and Neglect

A toddler or preschooler who isn't fortunate enough to have loving parents (like you!) and if he does not have a nurturing home life, he is more likely to have language development problems, according to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. The survey found that the psychological effects of abused and neglected kids placed in foster homes or other out-of-home care facilities weigh heavy on academic achievement. Kids in the survey were more likely to score poorly on tests that measured language development and cognitive skills.

2. Social and Educational Ranking

Little ones who have less of the basics and fewer extras may feel bad when they compare their lifestyle to those of their more well-to-do peers. Children from low-income or poverty stricken households are more likely to lag behind, when it comes to language development. Sadly, toddlers and preschoolers from poor families are up to four times slower in learning language skills than young kids from middle and upper income families, reports the Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development. This may be due (in part) to a lack of language promoting activities, such as being exposed to books in the preschool years. A significant link exists between a young child's language skills and how far up the educational ladder his parents have climbed. More educated parents are more inclined to use "bigger" words when speaking to their toddler or preschooler and spend more time reading to their little one -- both of which enhance language development

3. Autism Spectrum Disorders

A young child with an autism spectrum disorder tends to be sluggish when it comes to language development, explains the National Institute of Mental Health. Kids with ASD tend to say one (precious) word at a time, rather than put together a complete sentence. For example, he may say "Won't" to express his unwillingness to brush his teeth rather than "I don't want to." Good language skills are possible in children with ASD but they may still find it hard to carry on a give-and-take conversation.

4. Selective Mutism

A toddler or preschooler with a condition called selective mutism refuses to speak under certain circumstances -- like when a stranger is present -- but he may talk freely at home and in front you and other people he knows and trusts. Selective mutism often starts before age 5, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A young child with the condition doesn't necessarily have language development issues -- unless you consider the use it or lose it viewpoint -- but more specifically, he has language usage problems. The condition may go unnoticed until the child goes to school, when he may refuse to talk to the teacher (or horror of horrors) be called to speak in front of his class! Extreme shyness, social withdrawal and being deathly afraid of social embarrassment may point to the possibility that your child has selective mutism.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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