Study finds significant increase in speech delays among children during pandemic

After the pandemic, there was a significant increase in the rate of children under the age of 5 being diagnosed with first-time speech delays, with the 2- to 3-year-old age group having the highest rate of first-time diagnoses. The post Study finds significant increase in speech delays among children during pandemic appeared first on Dallas Examiner.

Study finds significant increase in speech delays among children during pandemic

Globe Newswire

BELLEVUE, Wash. – New research exploring the incidence of first-time speech delays in children under the age of 5 prior to and during the pandemic was published in JAMA Pediatrics, Truveta announced Wednesday. The research found a significant increase in the rate of children under the age of 5 being diagnosed with first-time speech delays since July 2020. For example, for the 2- to 3-year-old age group, that means 115 children in 10,000 received a first-time speech delay diagnosis who otherwise would not have, and 48 children in 10,000 for all groups under the age of 5.

“As a pediatrician, researcher, and mom, it’s important to study the lingering impacts – both large and small – of the pandemic on children,” said Sarah Stewart, MD, senior clinical informaticist at Truveta, practicing pediatrician at Allegro Pediatrics, and an author on the study. “The results of this study are a great reminder to pediatricians to use a more critical lens when screening children for learning disabilities post-pandemic, with the goal of connecting patients with services as needed.”

Truveta delivers electronic health record data from more than 100 million patients across more than 30 health systems, empowering researchers with scientifically rigorous analytics to study safety and effectiveness, improve patient care, and train medical AI.

In this analysis, using a subset of Truveta Data, Truveta Research identified children younger than 5 years with encounters between Jan. 1, 2018, and Feb. 28, 2023, and no previous speech delay diagnosis. Of the 2,463,511 included patients, 87,781 children (3.6%) had a first-time speech delay diagnosis within this period. The study found that 2-year-old patients had the highest rate of first-time speech delay diagnoses, followed by 1-year-old patients.

The study observed significant step increases in the number of diagnoses of speech delays overall following the onset of the pandemic. The results also showed larger increases over time in first-time diagnoses for the overall population. For children in the age groups over 1 year of age, there is a sustained increase in first-time speech delay diagnoses over time.

“Throughout the pandemic, I regularly chatted with a close friend – a speech and language pathologist who specializes in treating children aged 3 and under – about the increased demand in care she was seeing and the challenges that came with delivering speech therapy remotely. I was curious if what she was experiencing in the increased need for speech support services might be true across the country,” said Brianna Cartwright, MS, principal research analyst, Truveta researcher and lead author on the study. “The results of this study – in conjunction with my friend’s experience and published literature that shows the challenges of delivering therapy during the pandemic – indicates that not only are kids getting diagnosed at higher rates, but also therapy for those kids was harder to administer, potentially compounding the effects.”

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