The impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in childhood are significant and potentially lasting. Speech therapy might not be able to prevent these impacts for all children but we can minimise them as much as possible by giving children the support and skills they need.

The type and amount of impact for each child varies depending on the type and severity of their difficulties, their environment and their personality. It is also influenced by how early, how much and how good their speech therapy and other interventions are.

Here we give you a brief summary of the known impacts of speech, language and communication difficulties in children’s lives. This list can be daunting and depressing for some parents but it highlights the importance of accessing a good Speech Pathologist as soon as possible to help your child develop.

Sometimes parents don’t fully understand the impacts of their child’s difficulties which means they don’t prioritise therapy amongst the other many demands of life as a parent, not because they aren’t good parents but just because they don’t understand the significance of the problem. This list will explain that significance.


Speech and Language Difficulties are Common:

  • It has been estimated that between 16 and 21% of five year olds experience speech or language difficulties, with up to 50% of these children have problems in both areas (Reilly et al., 2010).


General Outcomes:

  • Children with speech and language difficulties are at risk for ongoing communication problems in adulthood as well as cognitive, academic, behavioural, social and psychiatric difficulties (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992).
  • Children with speech and language difficulties in kindergarten have a higher risk of reading disability in both childhood and adulthood, lower academic achievement levels, poorer mental health and psychosocial outcomes as well as higher rates of unemployment (Catts et al., 2002, Clegg et al., 2005, Durkin et al., 2011, Law et al., 2009, Schoon et al., 2010).
  • The initial pattern of speech and/or language difficulties is related to how well they progress and children who have only speech difficulties do better than those who also have language problems (Beitchman et al, 1994).
  • Speech and language can have lasting impacts. In one study 72% of children identified with speech and language impairments at age 5 continued to show difficulties in these areas at age 12 (Beitchman et al, 1994).


Social and Behavioural Outcomes:

  • Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) have difficulties with social and behavioural development (Redmond & Rice, 1998). This might be due to frustration, social rejection by other children and a lack of self confidence associated with their communication difficulties.
  • Not only do children with SLI have trouble in early childhood and primary school years but these problems persist through high school and may even get worse over time (Redmond & Rice 2002).
  • Many children with SLI shown withdrawn social interaction including being less likely to initiate a conversation, playing alone and being less liked by others in their class (Coster et al., 1999).
  • Children with delayed communication at 2 years of age were rated as more shy and less outgoing than other children when they were 6 years old (Paul & Kellogg, 1997).
  • Difficulty with aggressive behaviour is more common in children with speech and language problems (Carson et al, 1998).
  • Preschoolers with communication difficulties are less likely to be chosen as friends by other children their age (Gertner et al., 1994).
  • Children with these difficulties are more likely to be bullied at school (Conti-Ramsden & Botting, 2004).


Mental Health Outcomes:

  • Poor interaction can lead to more withdrawal behaviour and poor self-esteem over time as some studies have found this to be more of a problem for older children with language difficulties (Jerome et al., 2002).
  • Children with language problems have significantly higher rates of anxiety disorder and social phobia (Beitchman et al, 2001).
  • Half of all 5 years old with language impairments have been found to have behavioural disorders with attention/hyperactivity difficulties the most common (Beitchman et al, 1996).


Academic & Learning Outcomes:

  • Children with comprehension problems are at risk of not understanding or being able to learn in the school setting (Hooper et al, 2003).
  • Early language impairment has been clearly associated with academic difficulties continuing through to adulthood (Young et al, 2002).
  • Children with language impairment are at risk of reading difficulties and behavioural difficulties associated with reading difficulties (Tomblin et al, 2000).


Crime and Justice Outcomes:

  • There is an extremely high incidence rate of speech and language impairments in young offenders  (Bryan, 2004).
  • Speech and literacy difficulties as well as low education are risk factors for offending (Tomblin, 2000).
  • Oral language is a key competence that if developed early may reduce the risk of offending (Snow & Powell, 2012).

Now that long list of things to worry about might feel overwhelming but hopefully it gives you a sense of why we are so passionate about early intervention and why we recommend therapy for children with even minor speech and language impairments. We want children to live happy, fulfilled lives and speech therapy gives them the best possible chance at that sort of future.

If you live in Highfields, Toowoomba or surrounding areas and want your child to learn to talk then our Certified Practicing Speech Pathologists can help provide high quality, effective speech therapy for your child.

We know what’s ahead on that road for your child if we don’t treat their speech and language difficulties – that’s why we recommend early intervention.



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Beitchman, J. H., Brownlie, E. B., Inglis, A., Wild, J., Matthews, R., Schachter, D., et al. (1994). Seven-year follow-up of speech/language impaired and control children: Speech/language stability and outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 1322-1330.

Beitchman, J. H., Wilson, B., Brownlie, E. B., Walters, H., Inglis, A., & Lancee, W. (1996). Long-term consistency in speech/language profiles: II. behavioural, emotional and social outcomes. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(6), 815-825.

Beitchman, J. H., Wilson, B., Johnson, C. J., Atkinson, L., Young, A., Adlaf, E., et al. (2001). Fourteen year follow-up of speech/language impaired children and control children: psychiatric outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(1), 75-82.

Bryan, K. (2004) Preliminary study of the prelance of speech and language difficulties in young offenders. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders; 39:3, 391-400.

Carson, D. K., Klee, T., Perry, C. K., Muskina, G., & Donaghy, T. (1998). Comparisons of children with delayed and normal language at 24 months of age on measures of behavioral difficulties, social and cognitive development.Infant Mental Health Journal, 19, 59-75.

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Conti-Ramsden, G., & Botting, N. (2004). Social difficulties and victimisation in children with SLI at 11 years of age. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 47(1), 145-172.

Coster, F.W, Goorhuis-Brouwer, S.M, Nakken, H, Lutje Spelberg H.C. (1999) Specific Language Impairments and Behavioural Problems. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 51:99-107.

Durkin, K., Conti-Ramsden, G. & Simkin, Z. 2011. Functional Outcomes of Adolescents with a History of Specific Language Impairment (SLI) with and without Autistic Symptomatology. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 123-138.

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Redmond, S.M. & Rice M.L. (1998) The socio-emotional behaviours of children with Speech and Language Impairment: Social adaption or social deviance?Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 41, 688-700

Redmond, S.M. & Rice, M.L. (2002). Stability of behavioral ratings of children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, 190-201.

Reilly, S., Wake, M., Ukoumunne, O. C., Bavin, E., Prior, M., Cini, E., Conway, L., Eadie, P. & Bretherton, L. 2010. Predicting language outcomes at 4 years of age: findings from Early Language in Victoria Study. Pediatrics, 126, e1530-e1537.

Schoon, I., Parsons, S., Rush, R. & Law, J. 2010. Childhood Language Skills and Adult Literacy: A 29-Year Follow-up Study. Pediatrics, 125, e459-e466.

Tomblin, J. B., Zhang, X., Buckwalter, P., & Catts, H. (2000). The association of reading disability, behavioural disorders and language impairment among second-grade children. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 41(4), 473-482.

Young, A. R., Beitchman, J. H., Johnson, C., Douglas, L., Atkinson, L., Escobar, M., et al. (2002). Young adult academic outcomes in a longitudinal sample of early identified language impaired and control children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(5), 635-645.