ChildLinks Issue 1: Language Development in the Early Years

Barnardos. (2015). ChildLinks Issue 1: Language Development in the Early Years.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on the 31st amendment to the Constitution of Ireland finally passed the Children’s Referendum. The insertion of an article enshrining children’s rights into Ireland’s Constitution ushers in a new era of support and protection for all children. We look forward to seeing the real impact of this historic amendment in the coming months and years: improved support and protection for children in our laws and policies, and young people who feel truly valued members of the Irish society. In this issue of ChildLinks we look at the issue of language development. Language acquisition is a skill that we largely take for granted, despite the fact that it is estimated that 1 in 10 children have speech and language difficulties and are at serious risk of social isolation and real educational disadvantage. Language and communication are central to the development of social, emotional and academic development. While the majority of children acquire language without difficulty, there are some who struggle to develop language and may regularly experience frustration and even failure in their communication. Research points to a very high incidence of speech, language and communication needs in lower socioeconomic groups. All those interacting with babies and small children play a role in the development of their communication skills. The creation of communication-friendly environments is therefore essential in all early years settings. In her article in this issue of ChildLinks, Speech and Language Therapist Patricia Curtis outlines the growing demand for support in encouraging language development for all children and the role of the speech and language therapist in providing this support in early years settings. Máire Mhic Mhathúna of Dublin Institute of Technology then looks at the value of fostering positive attitudes towards all languages, including Irish, local English and children’s other home languages, and the increasing emphasis on the importance of developing children’s oral language in government documents. The following three articles present a number of initiatives in Ireland that support language development in young children: The Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapy in the disadvantaged area of Tallaght West; The Language Support Initiative in The Dublin South West Inner City Parent and Child Hub; and Happy Talk, a language development project that works in the areas of The Glen and Mayfield in Cork City. The final article in this issue looks at the long-term impacts of speech, language and communication needs and how these impact of other aspects of a child’s development, highlighting the importance of early intervention.