Stress and Anxieties associated with SLCN

How communication issues impact a child’s social and emotional well-being

Parents and those who care for children really want to raise confident and self-assured children. However, children with communication issues may struggle with social and emotional development, which also affects their education and experiences in school.

Communication is a foundation skill that takes place during early childhood development. During this time, children begin to understand and process the world around them, as well as express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

When speech and language skills are hindered or underdeveloped, it can take a toll on their social and emotional well-being. For young children, the inability to make themselves understood, or process their emotions internally, may lead to self-isolation, temper tantrums, or other behavioural issues.

Older children that have speech problems may also experience a variety of social and emotional challenges. For example, children whose communication skills are affected can experience poor confidence, be withdrawn, or limit their interaction with peers for fear of being teased or bullied. Those with a developmental language disorder may know exactly what they want to say but be unable to translate their thoughts into coherent sentences, causing immense frustration and short-temperedness.

In one very significant long-term study that spanned 29 years, researchers found that children with delays in their receptive language skills – the ability to understand what others are saying and process information – were at greater risk for social, emotional, and behavioural problems as adults. The researchers used standardised tests to measure the receptive language skills in approximately 7,000 children at age 5. They followed up with these same children at age 34 and found that this group of individuals were more likely to experience mental health problems than those that did not experience these language delays.

The researchers ultimately concluded that: “The needs of children with language problems are complex and call for early and continuing provision of educational support and services.”


Stress and anxiety at school

The emotional impact on children that struggle with speech and language skills can become more pronounced once they enter school. Suddenly, they are surrounded by children their own age, increasingly interacting and socialising with kids that may be more advanced in their communication abilities. Children are astute observers of their environment, and these differences in development can become stark and noticeable, leading many children to become self-conscious about their own abilities. We can imagine how much stress a child might experience each day they go to school.

Academic performance can often suffer as a result. It is well documented that children with communication problems are more likely to struggle with reading and writing skills.

The more children focus on their own self-image or are fearful about being teased or rejected by their peers, the less time they spend focused on reading, writing, comprehension, and other skills essential for academic success. Additionally, classroom participation and interpersonal relationships can also suffer. Poor grades and lower confidence can contribute to this cycle of stress and self-doubt if children don’t receive proper intervention.


Getting Your Child Professional Help

All children develop at their own pace, with a wide spectrum of speech and language development across all age groups. Therefore, strictly comparing your child’s communication abilities to ‘norms’ and their peers isn’t always a clear signal that they have an issue.

That said, it can be difficult for parents to determine whether their child is experiencing a slight delay that they’ll naturally overcome with time, or if there is a more severe problem that could worsen or persist into adulthood.

Parents should seek assistance from a health visitor, teacher, or a speech-language therapist if they notice their child struggling with communication issues. Since children’s speech patterns become more habitual overtime, earlier intervention is a must. Speech therapists are communication experts – after assessing and diagnosing your child, they develop an individualised treatment plan to help improve your child’s communication abilities that will contribute to their academic, emotional, and social success.

Many parents looking for a more affordable and convenient alternative to traditional, in-person speech therapy are opting to receive services online. Particularly throughout the pandemic when services were non-existent. Online speech therapy doesn’t suit everyone but it can help, particularly if you have access to highly experienced tele practitioners.

SLCo is a community-based service that works with a slightly different approach. We are parent-led and recognise the fears and worries that parents feel as they care for a child who needs a lot more help.

Stress and anxiety are felt by caregivers on a daily basis and our Helpline serves as a gateway to support. Listening to mums and dads who struggle to understand and cope with the complexities of speech and language disorders and discussing ways in which we can help address the myriad challenges facing is what we do.

Parents support parents. It’s so important to have a link to people who understand the difficulties and can share a journey. There is a therapeutic element at play when we speak with people who have a shared experience. It can help to talk. Talking reduces the stress that is often shut away inside. Parents are often expected to display superhero qualities, they need to be everything plus a little bit more for their kids and it’s a 24/7 job. Too much stress affects our emotional and physical health which could make a challenging job even more difficult if it’s not addressed.

We’re here to help. Parents can contact our helpline or through our social media or email. Don’t delay if you need someone to talk to. That’s what we’re here for.

Children and young people who live with communication disabilities and challenges can be supported with their mental health via our local support teams who can offer 1:1 support and there are local clubs and activities, all designed to prove a supportive scaffold to boost mental health and wellbeing. The stress experienced by children and young people (CYP) with speech, language and communication (SLC) difficulties is well researched. Check out our range of supports and give your child a chance to boost their confidence and communication skills. This helps your child build the resilience and social connections that are so important to their wellbeing and happiness.

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