What impact has the pandemic had on children’s development?

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What impact has the pandemic had on children’s development? | Eastside Speech

No doubt we will be reading about the impact of the pandemic on all facets of our lives for years to come. Speech Pathologists and parents have a particular interest in the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s development and communication. Not surprisingly the emerging data relating to “pandemic babies” is concerning.

Things we had taken for granted until 2020 such as social interaction and engagement with others and being able to see people’s faces are integral to children’s intellectual, communication and social development. The restrictions related to the pandemic led to preschools and day-care centres experiencing prolonged closures. Mother’s groups and play groups which previously played an important role in forging social connections for both mothers and children, generally did not function for most of 2020-2021 resulting in increased social isolation and reduction in natural social supports. Many families may have experienced financial stress due to loss of work, or stress resulting in having to balance working from home whilst parenting and schooling children for a prolonged period of time. Anecdotally, secondary to the working and schooling from home phenomenon, children were also exposed to far greater screen time and at an earlier age. It is well documented that screen time has a negative effect on children’s communication, cognitive development and social interaction.

A group of researches lead by Deoni et al in late 2021 have reported on the early evidence of the above environmental changes on babies born since the start of the pandemic in the Providence Rhode Is area in the United States. They noted that babies born since the start of the pandemic show a significant reduction in cognitive development, with their performance and verbal IQ scores being up to 2 standard deviations below children born before the pandemic. Children from disadvantaged settings were found to have been impacted most.

As parents and speech pathologists, it is important to support babies born since the start of the pandemic to rebound from its effects. Parents, particularly of children under 3-years of age are encouraged to be familiar with developmental milestones and seek outside help if their children are falling behind. The easing of restrictions now affords parents the opportunity to re-engage with those natural opportunities that support children’s social, communication and cognitive development.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our speech pathologists are experienced in working with toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Click here to find more information about our Speech Therapy for Toddlers and Preschoolers.


Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Early Child Cognitive Development: Initial Findings in a Longitudinal Observational Study of Child Health Sean CL Deoni1,2,3, Jennifer Beauchemin1 , Alexandra Volpe1 , Viren D’Sa1,2, and the RESONANCE Consortium, August 2021