A Closer Look at the Late Talker Study: Why Parents Should Beware of a “Wait and See Approach (The Hanen Centre)

Reference:  (Marketwire-July 15, 2011)

The Hanen Centre

Toronto, Ontario

The results of an Australian study on the emotional outcomes of late talking toddlers have been reported under  headlines such as, “Late Talkers Do Fine as They Grow”.  The Hanen Centre, a not-for-profit organization specializing in young children with language delays (including those who are late talkers) cautions that such headlines might give false assurance to parents who notice that their child is late to talk. 

The new study, led by psychologist Andrew Whitehouse at the University of Western Australia in Perth, showed that there were no lasting behavioral or emotional problems associated with late talking (the study showed that behavior problems had disappeared by age 5 and were not seen in any of the follow-up assessments).   However, news headlines such as “Late-Talking Toddlers Likely to Be Fine by Age 5) may be misleading because the study measured behavioral and emotional outcomes only; the children were not assessed for language outcomes, so we cannot make the assumption that they went on to be “fine” in this area of development.

It is known that 70-80% of late talking toddlers will outgrow a language delay if it is an expressive delay,i.e. involves only spoken language, with no delays in comprehension and/or social use of language)*.  While this is encouraging, it still means that a significant proportion (20-30%) will not catch up to their peers.  Research has shown that, when children don’t catch up in their language skills, they have persistent language difficulties, as well as difficulty with reading and writing when they get to school.**

Elaine Weitzman, speech-language pathologist and Executive Director of The Hanen Centre  says that while a ‘wait and see” approach for late talkers may be appropriate in the area of behavior, it is not advised in the area of language development.  “It is very difficult to predict which late talkers will catch up and which will fall into the 20-30% group and who don’t,” Weitzman cautions.  “A ‘wait and see’ approach simply delays treatment that can make a huge difference to a child who needs it.”  When parents notice that their toddler isn’t reaching the appropriate language milestones for his age, Weitzman recommends that they get an assessment from a licensed speech-language pathologist.

Research clearly shows that the earlier a child with a delay receives help, the better his or her outcomes.***  In Ontario, the Ministry of Children and Youth has recognized this urgency by significantly increasing its funding for speech and language services in an effort to lower the age of referral to age two and to ensure that every child arrives at school ready and able to learn.

It is also important that parents take part in their child’s early intervention to ensure the best possible outcome.  Studies have shown that parent-administered interventions help young children who are late talkers to start talking and move into using short sentences, whereas a no-treatment group did not show the same improvement.  This shows that parents can learn to help their own children if they are taught how.  Based on these positive findings, The Hanen Centre developed a program for parents of late talking toddlers, called Target Word  (copyright protected), in which parents learn to use language building strategies that increase their child’s expressive vocabulary during everyday family activities.

“We know that the window of opportunity is greatest when a child is very young,” says Weitzman.  “If a toddler is late in his or her language development, parents will never regret acting early.  They might, however, regret acting too late.”

The Hanen Centre is a not-for-profit charitable organization, recognized as an international leader in early language intervention through parent-and educator-focused programs.  For more information, visit

Secondhand smoke linked to chance of ADHD, learning disabilities in kids

Reference:  Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-second-hand… By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey/For the Booster Shots blog 7/11/11

Here’s another reason not to light up around little ones: Not only are children who are surrounded by secondhand smoke at greater risk for asthma and other health problems, but they may be more likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities, too.

The new analysis comes from a national phone survey in which parents were asked whether they smoked and if they’d been told by a health professional that their child has any of three problems: ADD or ADHD;  learning disability; or a behavioral or conduct problem.  Out of the more than 55,000 children under the age of 12 in the analysis, about 6% of the children were exposed to secondhand smoke, corresponding to about 4.8 million children nationwide.

Researchers, led by the Harvard School of Public Health, found that children in a smoking home had a 50% greater likelihood of having at least two of the three disorders.  Boys were at higher risk than girls.  And the researchers estimate that 274,100 such disabilities could have been prevented if the children were not exposed to secondhand smoke.  The full results were published online Monday in Pediatrics. 

The study doesn’t prove that secondhand smoke causes neurological and behavioral disabilities.  Though the authors took factors like poverty status, race and the mother’s education into account, the authors acknowledge other variables, like whether the mothers smoked during pregnancy, could confound the results.  And it’s difficult to know how accurately parents answered questions over the phone.

But other studies have hinted at the link between mental health disorders and secondhand smoke.  A study in April found a link between ADHD symptoms in children and teens and blood levels of a nicotine byproduct.  Still, the symptoms didn’t add up to a single diagnosis that could be linked to secondhand smoke.

Here’s what the authors conclude in their paper:

“These health and economic burdens might be reduced significantly if voluntary smoke-free home policies are vigorously encouraged.  Nevertheless, additional evidence is warranted in additional population settings for entirely evidence-based health policy decision making.”

As if there weren’t enough evidence that smoking around children is a poor idea.


Food Additives and Dyes: Links to Attention Problems

Reference: Learning Disabilities of America May/June 2011 Newsletter

Healthy Children Project

Article by Maureen Swanson
Healthy Children Project Coordinator

At the beginning of April, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee decided that there is not sufficient evidence to support a link between artificial dyes in foods and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The committee failed to recommend any ban or regulation of dye additives in food products.  They did call for more research.

There are seven primary food dyes used in the United States: Red #3, Red #40, Blue #1 & #2, Green #3 and Yellow #5 and #6.   There are two limited use dyes: Orange B used in hot dog and sausage casings, and Citrus Red 2 allowed only for coloring orange peels.  The dyes are used to make foods, candy and drinks more appealing, especially to children.  European countries already have banned some food dyes, including Blue #1 and Yellow #5 and #6.  In many cases, manufacturers now use natural colorings for food products in the European market.

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, Yellow #5 may be more likely to cause problems with attention and behavior than other additives.  Yellow #5 is found in beverages, candy, ice cream, custards and other foods such as macaroni and cheese mixes.  The FDA requires manufacturers to label foods that contain Yellow #5 in the list of ingredients.

Many parents and teachers have their own anecdotal evidence that food dyes and preservatives seem to contribute to a child’s hyperactivity, behavior or attention problems.  LDA often takes a position that it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to children’s health and learning.

If you want to avoid food dyes and preservatives for your family, summer is a great time to change eating and food shopping habits.  Foods to avoid include brightly colored, processed foods, which are most likely to contain one or more food dyes.  Another good rule of thumb is that if you cannot understand or pronounce the ingredients in a food product, you shouldn’t eat it.

To quote Michael Pollan, well-known author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Food Rules”, one of the best ways to ensure a healthier diet is to “Eat Real Food.”

By real food, Pollan means fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and meat that have not been “processed” with other ingredients into packaged foods.  In summer and early fall, farmers markets and backyard gardens make this kind of eating much easier.  If possible, load your plate with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

To have healthy, locally grown produce available year-round, one option is to can fruits and vegetables.  Another way to preserve some fruits and vegetables is to freeze them – this works well with blueberries, corn, beans, peas, rhubarb and many other fruits and vegetables.  For a “how-to” guide on freezing fresh food, see the charts at the following website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/dj0555.html

While European governments seem more willing to take precautionary measures to protect people, especially children, from the possible harmful effects of food dyes, the FDA’s recent ruling means that in the United States, we have to take our own precautionary measures.