Previous research has shown that children with language problems have a risk of developing reading and writing difficulties. Associate Professor Inger Kristine Løge at the Centre for Learning Environment says that these children also have a risk of developing social and emotional difficulties.
"The ability to think among many children with language problems is equal to the ability of other children, but they cannot express what they think or wish. Thus, language problems make it more difficult for them to ask to join in games, initiate playing and participate in playing than is the case for other children," says Løge.
"Instead, they pull the hair of other children, destroy what others have built or become angry. It is therefore very important to work on the language and identify such problems early on," the researcher emphasises.
Birds of a feather flock together?
Løge's research and other studies show that children who cannot express themselves, who say things that are inappropriate for the occasion or who take too long to answer, may find it hard to be included in the playing. This tendency can be observed from the time children are small.
"Children select playmates who are similar to themselves, who respond as and when expected, and who have learned the codes for joining in the playing," says Løge.
Playing and social interactions have a large effect on children's development. Through playing, children develop their linguistic and interpersonal skills, and they learn how to cooperate and adapt to various different situations. Children who are excluded, lose out on this experience. They become isolated, become sad and often play alone or with younger children. This has an impact on their learning, development and social relationships.
"Many end up with withdrawal issues: They become silent and hide. Yet others end up with major behaviour problems: They become violent and hit others," says Løge.
Important to work on the language?
She has worked with children with language problems herself and knows that facilitation in a systematic manner may generate considerable progress.
"By working actively on the language and repeating the name of things, the children will learn words that they will need in various situations, and by putting everything you do into words, the vocabulary of the children will improve."
"In addition, the adults should help the children join in the playing by showing them how other children do it and teach the children words they may use in order to make contact with other children," says Løge.
She points out that this also apply to gifted children.
"The language of these children may be so advanced that other children of the same age may have problems understanding what they are talking about, with the result that also gifted children are not included in the playing," says Løge.
Løge, I. K. (2011). Språkvanskar og sosioemosjonelle vanskar (Language problems and socio-emotional difficulties). In Midthassel, U. V.; Bru, L. E.; Ertesvåg, S. & Roland, E. (Ed.) (2011). Sosiale og emosjonelle vansker: barnehagens og skolens møte med sårbare barn og unge (Social and emotional difficulties: kindergarten's and school's interaction with vulnerable children and young people (1st ed., pp. 56–73). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.