The Impact of COVID-19 on Children with Language Developmental Difficulties

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Abstract

Children with Delayed Language Onset (DLO) and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) face challenges in terms of educational inclusion and language development. The COVID-19 pandemic and preventive measures have further exacerbated difficulties in the oral language development of these children, affecting their equal opportunities in the regular classroom. This study aims to (1) assess whether children with DLO and DLD are experiencing increased difficulties during the pandemic compared to before, and (2) understand the perspectives of families and speech therapists regarding the impact of COVID-19 on children’s language development and its consideration in the teaching-learning process. The study adopts a descriptive comparative methodology, employing mixed data collection through quantitative language tests and qualitative questionnaires. The quantitative results indicate differences in oral language abilities before and after the pandemic, with a notable increase in articulation difficulties, although these differences are not statistically significant. This finding aligns with the views of speech therapists and families who highlight the phonetic-phonological dimension as one of the most affected. Families and speech therapists also note that the use of masks and reduced opportunities for peer interaction hinder the improvement of these children and their educational inclusion. The study concludes that (a) there are no significant differences in language between the two groups, (b) families identify masks and limited social interaction as key limitations, and (c) conducting a prevalence study in the DLO and DLD population would support the implementation of Universal Design for Learning principles in educational settings.