Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Sharp rise in children's speech referrals in Jersey

Aduld and child - generic
Developing speech through play is part of Language for Life training

The number of children referred for speech therapy in Jersey rose sharply last year, official figures have shown.

According to the States, 385 requests for help with speech and communication problems were made in 2009, compared with 329 in 2008 - a rise of about 17%.

Training is to be offered to parents and professionals to help them develop young children's language skills.

Experts believe good communication underpins a child's social, emotional and educational development.

Language for Life training has been organised by Education Sport and Culture, Social Services and charities.

'Life skills'

The training is for people working in nurseries and reception classes to support language development for children aged three to five.

Dr Lisa Perkins, head of the speech and language therapy, said: "Speech, language and communication are foundation skills for life.

"Good communication and language skills at a young age have the highest correlation with outcomes in school at seven years old."

Dr Perkins said it was unclear whether the rise in referrals was due to an increase in the number of children with problems or whether there was improved recognition of those who needed help.

But she said education professionals were seeing more children starting nursery and school with poor language skills.

Senior speech therapist Jennifer McDonald said the role of a parent was "vital" and it never too early to start communicating.

"It has been shown that babies learn to recognise their mother's voice in the womb," Ms McDonald said.

"Through responding and talking to their baby or young child, parents are helping their baby to learn to talk."

Presentations about the programme will take place on Wednesday at 1200 GMT at the Bridge and 1900 GMT at Highlands College.

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