Editorial: Early intervention in response to language delays – is there a danger of putting too many eggs in the wrong basket?
Courtenay Frazier Norbury
To most people it seems incontrovertible that when a child’s development appears to be lagging, the earlier we intervene the better. This commonly held belief drives a considerable research effort to identify ‘biomarkers’ of disorder at ever younger ages, so that treatment can be made available to infants, before overt signs of disorder are apparent and difficulties become entrenched. Although much of this work has focused on early interventions for autism spectrum disorder, similar efforts have been directed at remediating early language delays. If we could reliably predict in infancy which children would have persistent language learning impairments, early intervention would of course have potentially wide ranging benefits. In fact, the promise of early intervention is such that in times of austerity, some speech-language therapy providers are prioritising services to the under-fives, with little or no direct intervention to school-aged children. And services to pupils in secondary school are almost non-existent, much to the frustration of parents and school staff who see the language demands of the curriculum and the social environment increasing exponentially during adolescence. This Editorial focuses on the evidence for early intervention for children presenting with language delays, in the context of articles published in this issue of JCPP that focus on early language development.
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