Have you seen this study?
It’s still in preprint, but it’s making news.
Babies born during the pandemic have suffered a significant drop in verbal, motor, and overall cognitive development.
A scary drop.
As in from 100, an average standard score, to 78.
For those of you who don’t routinely interpret test scores, here’s the classic reference for IQ tests, although the numbers may differ slightly depending on which test is used:
- 130 and up: Very gifted
- 120 – 129: Gifted
- 111 – 119: Above-average intelligence
- 90 – 109: Average intelligence
- 80 – 89: Low-average intelligence
- 70 – 79: Borderline intelligence
- 69 and below: Extremely low intelligence
So… in real life language…
We’ve got a problem.
A gigantic worldwide problem.
Babies born during the pandemic ( that’s 2020 until… who knows?) are not learning (or walking or talking!) at the same pace as babies born before the pandemic.
The study is from Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University (for our readers around the world, Rhode Island a very small state in the Northeast US) as a part of a longitudinal, or ongoing, project to track child neurodevelopment beginning in 2011. Authors compared scores from the preceding decade (2011 – 2019) to babies born in 2020 and 2021 using The Mullen Scales of Early Learning, a well-known 5 domain developmental assessment that many therapists use and trust.
Scores were down across the board – in motor, cognitive, and verbal skills.
Guess who seems to be most affected?
Boys and kids in families with lower socioeconomic resources – not a surprise to those of us who see kids with learning differences.
Even in the absence of illness, environmental changes due to the pandemic are resulting in significant developmental delays. A year and a half of stay-home restrictions, school and educational/therapy program shut downs, masks, and social distancing, not to mention parental fears of illness and unemployment, have all taken a toll on everything – including how babies acquire new skills.
We should have known it was coming.
There have been very few opportunities for the kinds of experiences that drive early development- exploratory play outside, social interaction with new adults in new places, and playdates, birthday parties, and playgrounds with other kids.
I am hearing this at teachmetotalk.com too.
Initially during the early days of the pandemic, an occasional therapist would send me an email wondering about this very thing.
Now, I get several emails in a week that read something like this…
“I just went to see my grandchild this weekend and I am very worried. Although I have seen him often on FaceTime since he was born, I had no idea of how behind he is. He’s just turned 18 months old and I did not hear any words the entire time I was there. Mom and Dad are not concerned. What should I do?”
“I’m an SLP and I am very worried about my neighbor’s baby who was born during the pandemic. She has rarely been outside their tiny apartment – not even to the store.”
“I went in for a well-baby check today and my pediatrician said he would refer us for a speech eval, but he doesn’t think we can see someone for a few months because the waiting lists are so long. Should I be worried?”
As a therapist, I bet you’re hearing this too.
If not, you will!
I’m certainly not going to stop talking about it!
What are we going to do about this avalanche of toddlers and preschoolers with global delays coming our way?
We’re going to rise up and help!
SLPs and other EI professionals are uniquely qualified because we already understand babies and families and how little changes implemented consistently can make huge differences and pretty quickly too!
We have a TON of advice we can give families and I’ll start sharing those specifics soon – so you can share them too!
The study is a pretty easy read – as far as research goes! – so here’s the link if you’d like to add it to your weekend to-do list.
Blessings to you…