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Language as a child wellbeing indicator

Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate
feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write. While the majority of young children acquire language effortlessly, a significant minority do not.

The UK prevalence rate for early language difficulties is between 5% and 8% of all children, and over 20% for those growing up in low-income households. The
high prevalence among disadvantaged children is thought to contribute to the achievement gap that exists by the time children enter school and continues until they leave. It is well known that language difficulties predict problems in literacy and reading comprehension, but less well known that they may be indicative of problems in children’s behaviour and mental health as well. For example, oral language difficulties are typically present in the educational profiles of young offenders.

We believe the fundamental link between language and other social, emotional and learning outcomes makes early language development a primary indicator of child wellbeing.