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MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT

- Encouraging Speech and Language Skills Essential For Children to Enjoy Future Success -

Don’t wait until it is too late when it comes to a child’s speech and language skills.

Local parents and caregivers are being given this advice by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. According to a Health Unit nurse, strong communication skills are essential for children’s growth and development and future success, as these skills help them learn new things, including reading and writing.

“Every word counts when it comes to a child’s speech skills,” says Shelley Shaughnessy, a Family Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Parents and caregivers need to play, talk, listen and read with youngsters to encourage and promote speech and language development.”

The Health Unit is highlighting the importance of a child’s speech and language development during Speech and Language Month in May.

Throughout the month of May, Health Unit nurses will also be holding special speech and language celebration events at Ontario Early Years Centres (OEYC) across the area. Local families are asked to contact their local OEYC for more information.

Shaughnessy notes that approximately one in 10 Ontario preschool children will experience a communication delay, a discovery that can be a surprise to parents and caregivers. Some parents may think their child is just quieter than other children, or that his or her frustration over words will work itself out over time. In reality, these may be indicators of speech and language problems, she says. Other warning signs to watch for in children include: difficulty following directions, having a hard time being understood, relying on gestures to communicate, and not pronouncing words clearly.

“Some parents may ignore these warning signs, thinking the problem will fix itself,” Shaughnessy adds. “Parents shouldn’t delay, and instead should address any speech and language issues. If identified early enough, the problem can usually be addressed.”

A good way for parents to assess a child’s communication ability is by using the Ontario government’s speech and language milestones for children up to the age of five years. The milestones and other resources are available at the Kid Talk website. People concerned about a child’s speech and language development can also turn for assistance to the District Preschool Speech and Language Program by calling the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Shelley Shaughnessy, Family Health Nurse, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100 or 1-866-888-4577.

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