Poor language skills as a toddler could be a sign children will develop major behaviourial problems in later life, researchers have claimed.
They say that if children are lagging behind at thee and half years old, parents should seek help.
Researchers claim it could be a sign of ADHD and other disorders of inattention and hyperactivity.
The Indiana University study tracked the links between early language skills and subsequent behavior problems in young children.
Poor language skills, the study suggests, limit the ability to control one’s behavior, which in turn can lead to behavior problems such as ADHD and other disorders of inattention and hyperactivity.
‘Young children use language in the form of private or self-directed speech as a tool that helps them control their behavior and guide their actions, especially in difficult situations,’ said Isaac Petersen of the clinical science program in the IU Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
‘Children who lack strong language skills, by contrast, are less able to regulate their behavior and ultimately more likely to develop behavior problems.’ The paper, ‘The Role of Language Ability and Self-Regulation in the Development of Inattentive-Hyperactive Behavior Problems,’ appears online this week in the journal Development and Psychopathology.
‘Children’s brains are most malleable earlier on, especially for language,’ said John Bates, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and co-author of the study.
‘Children are most likely to acquire skills in language and self-regulation early on.
‘Many of the states are starting to focus on preschool, edging toward universal preschool. ‘But early development specialists are not necessarily available.
‘I would have programs more readily available to families — and focused on children most at risk as early as possible.’ Petersen said the study indicates that we could look more closely at language skill earlier on.
‘Don’t expect all children to be at the same level early on,’ he said.
‘If their language is slow to develop and self-regulation is lacking, they are likely to catch up with proper supports.
‘Among those who are slow, some could develop problems.
‘If, by the age of 3½, a child is still lagging, it may be worth pursuing treatment for language and self-regulation skills — the earlier the better.’
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