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- Helping Children Develop Speech and Language Skills Key to Success in Later Life, Health Unit Says -

Parents and caregivers are being urged to make every word count when it comes to their child’s speech and language skills.

That’s the message two local health units are sharing with families during Speech and Hearing Month in May. Both the Peterborough County-City Health Unit and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit say that helping a young child develop proper speech and language skills is essential for success now and into the future.

“A child needs well-developed communication skills to make friends, learn new things and to start reading and writing,” says Shelley Shaughnessy, a Family Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit. “By playing, talking, listening and reading with your child now, you can have a positive impact on your child’s speech and language development that will last a lifetime.”

While encouraging adults to foster and support a child’s speech and language skills, Shaughnessy also notes the importance of identifying communication delays or problems in a youngster as early as possible. Approximately 10 percent of all Ontario preschool children have a communication delay, which if not identified early on, can pose problems in the future.

“It’s never good to play wait and see with your child’s speech skills because there is a lot at stake,” adds Leisa Baker, a Public Health Nurse with the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. “If identified early enough, speech and language problems can be overcome through parent and professional intervention.”

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 fact, this may be a warning sign of speech and language problems, Baker says. “Many problems are noticeable by 18 months of age, so discuss any concerns you have about your child’s speech with your health care provider during the 18-month well-baby visit,” she adds.

A good way that parents can 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. This resource, and many others, are available on the Kid Talk website, an online portal supported by the HKPR District Health Unit, Peterborough County-City Health Unit, Five Counties Children Centre and the Northumberland Child Development Centre.

People concerned about a child’s speech and language development can also call their local Health Unit office for a screening and additional assistance.

For media inquiries, contact:

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

or Leisa Baker, Public Health Nurse, Peterborough County-City Health Unit, (705) 743-1000, ext. 312.

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