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FOR RELEASE: April 25, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Better Speech and Hearing Month Encourages Early Screening

May has been designated Better Speech and Hearing Month to emphasize the need for early childhood screening for hearing, speech and language difficulties. If your child has not spoken his or her first word by age 1 ½, you need to consider the possibility of screening to identify speech and hearing difficulties.

Health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health say early identification of speech and language delays is critical to strengthening communication skills and enhancing academic success in later years.

"Early identification means evaluating and treating children under age 3 who are at risk or at high risk, such as children who received neonatal care after birth, have chronic ear infections, or those with developmental disorders," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health.

Signs that children are having difficulty are that they have not spoken by age 1, their speech is unclear, and their speech and language skills vary from other children's skills in the same age group.

"Parents should not assume that children will outgrow the problem because it can negatively affect the child's social and academic functioning. Concerned parents should have their child evaluated by an audiologist or a speech-language pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as early as possible," Nida said.

Last year in Oklahoma the Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists from the Oklahoma State Department of Health screened the speech, language and hearing of more than 30,000 children in order to detect communication problems as early as possible. For more information about early screening for speech and language problems, contact the county health department in your area.

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