Language and social/emotional problems identified at a universal developmental assessment at 30 months

Fiona Sim, John O'Dowd, Lucy Thompson, James Law, Susan MacMillan, Michelle Affleck, Christopher Gillberg, Philip Wilson

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Preschool language and neurodevelopmental problems often persist and impede learning. The aims of the current study are to assess the uptake of a new universal 30 month health visitor contact and to quantify the prevalence of language delay and social/emotional difficulties.

All families of 30 month old children in four Glasgow localities 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.

From an eligible population of 543 children, there was a 90% return rate of contact forms from the health visitors, and assessments were completed on 78% of eligible children. Visit completion rates did not differ significantly by socio-economic status. 3-8% of children were reported to have language delay depending on the method of assessment. 8.8% of children scored in the “abnormal” range of SDQ total difficulties scores and 31.1% had an abnormality in at least one subscale. There was substantial overlap between language delay and abnormal scores on the SDQ.

Universal assessment of neurodevelopmental function at 30 months identified a significant proportion of children, including those previously considered at low risk, with both language and social/emotional difficulties. Further work is required to assess the precise nature of these difficulties and to assess the potential impact on services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number206
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2013


  • child development
  • language delay
  • socio-emotional development
  • screening
  • preschool assessment
  • child health surveillance
  • child psychiatry


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