ANU links language problems with mental health

Barcham 6 August 2013

ANU researchers have linked childhood language impairments with the development of mental health issues later in life.

Using data sourced from research articles dating back to the 80’s, ANU researchers Shaun Goh and Richard O’Kearney found that young children with specific language impairments (SLI) were over twice as likely to be diagnosed in their later childhood with several conditions than kids who have no language problems.

Children with language impairments are more likely to develop mental health issues during later childhood or adolescent years, new research has found.

An interesting idea, however I can’t help but think that parents of older children who are still have problems reading are probably sending their kids along to specialists and psychologists a lot more often than parents of kids with no problems spelling. I think there’s still some room for doubt here. The ANU might be jumping the gun somewhat with that statement. Spotting a pattern isn’t proving a link.

“The only estimates on SLI currently available in Australia are drawn from American estimates,” he said.

“Using these estimates it is thought that today about two to three children, based on a classroom of 30 students, have an SLI.”

Mr Goh is hoping this research and future work will help establish a better understanding of what can be done to improve the mental health status of SLI children and adolescents.

“As part of my PhD I am currently conducting an online research study to better understand this,” he said.

Knowing numbers can help with research and funding in the field, but Mr Goh said interventions are equally as important.

“Resilience, emotional competencies and problem-focused coping are ways forward,” he said.

“Providing parents and educators with advice about how to best respond to the child to strengthen pro-social behaviour and reduce noncompliant and aggressive behaviour will also help.”

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