▶ To assess the prevalence of language delay and social/emotional difficulties in a population of children at 30 months old
▶ To assess the overlap between language delay and social/emotional difficulties
▶ To assess the acceptability and feasibility of the new routine 30 month contact for health visitors.
Methods Families of 30 month old children were offered a visit from their health visitor. Structured data were collected relating to language, social and emotional development using three instruments; The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the abbreviated Sure Start Language Measure and a two-item language screen. Based on the results of these measures, children were then allocated into one of three groups: 1) difficulties on SDQ only; 2) language difficulties only; and 3) both SDQ and language difficulties.
Results There was an 83% return rate of contact forms from the health visitors. We have partial data on 474 / 570 (83%) children and full data on 415/570 (73%) of the sample of eligible children.
Data on language delay are presented in table 1:
Data on SDQ abnormalities are presented in table 2:
There were highly significant correlations between language delay and social and emotional difficulties, with similar results observed with each of the language measures. Furthermore, problem scores on each of the SDQ subscales were highly correlated with the SSLM 50-word list.
Conclusion Language delay and social and emotional problems are highly correlated with adverse physical, mental health and forensic outcomes in adulthood; there is the potential for their early detection in childhood.
A significant proportion of children were identified as having both language and social and emotional difficulties through this pilot 30m contact. The potential for early identification and intervention resulting from this contact is substantial and, if it were rolled out to the wider population, could improve the health and social outcomes of a generation.