ASHA to Stress Early Detection of Communication Disorders at AAP Meeting

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“Wait and See” Approach to Warning Signs of Communication Disorders Not Acceptable

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A ‘wait and see’ approach, which is all too common, is simply not acceptable when it comes to communication disorders in young children

As the nation’s pediatricians gather in San Diego this week for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual meeting, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) will be there to share an important message of early detection of speech, language, and hearing disorders. The message will be especially timely given a recent study in AAP’s flagship journal Pediatrics, which reported a 63% increase in disability from speech disorders and a nearly 16% increase in disability from hearing disorders among U.S. children over the past decade.

The Pediatrics study, Changing Trends of Childhood Disability, 2001–2011, appeared online August 18, 2014. On a broad level, it showed that the percentage of children with disabilities rose 16% between 2001 and 2011. While childhood disability due to physical conditions declined, a significant increase (21%) in disabilities due to neurodevelopmental or mental health problems was reported. The authors cited a host of potential reasons for the increase, including biologic, familial, social, and cultural factors. Improved awareness, as well as the need for specific diagnoses to receive services such as early intervention, was additionally cited. Rising cases of autism, though not identifiable from the data, may also explain some of the increase in neurodevelopmental or mental health problems, they said.

“Pediatricians are generally the first to discover a potential problem related to speech or hearing in a young child or to hear about concerns directly from parents,” said Elizabeth McCrea, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2014 ASHA president. “As we learn more and more about the compelling benefits of the earliest possible intervention for these disorders, we want to remind pediatricians that it is never too soon for speech-language pathologists and audiologists to assess a child. Indirectly but clearly, the Pediatrics study underscores the need for a continued and growing partnership between pediatricians and communication professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for children who have these disorders.”

The message of early detection is consistent with ASHA’s ongoing Identify the Signs public education campaign (http://IdentifytheSigns.org), which launched in September 2013. Through public service announcements and a variety of other approaches, the campaign aims to inform parents about these disorders. The benefits of early identification are illustrated in this new infographic on the website. By visiting the website, parents can learn the early signs, find help, and share this critical information with their friends and families.

“A ‘wait and see’ approach, which is all too common, is simply not acceptable when it comes to communication disorders in young children,” said McCrea. “Parents and professionals must know that the earlier these disorders are identified, the more successful, the less expensive, and the shorter the course of treatment. We are now able to recognize disorders in younger and younger children and, through early assessment and treatment, we can often not only reverse communication disorders but also prevent them from occurring. This is transformative for a child—developmentally, academically, and socially. ASHA’s more than 173,000 members are here to work with pediatricians, parents, and patients.”

For more information and to locate a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, visit http://IdentifytheSigns.org.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 173,000 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. http://www.asha.org/.

View all ASHA press releases at http://www.asha.org/about/news.

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