Long COVID: Another Victim Of Pandemic Lockdowns Is The Generation Born During Them

By Charles Susswein | Wednesday, 18 May 2022 10:40
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Another victim of the lockdowns seems to be the generation of kids who were born during them. Several studies are showing that Infants born during the pandemic aren’t hitting the normal speech development milestones for that age; they are talking less and giving off signs they will have future reading challenges.

Researchers argue that because of COVID-19 disruptions, almost one-third of elementary students will require “intensive support to become proficient readers.”

Two other recent studies showed that children born during the pandemic are at a greater risk for academic failure because parents haven’t been able to engage their babies and toddlers in the types of conversations that are “crucial for language development.”

According to Forbes, language-developing conversations, like back-and-forth dialogue, are fundamental for reading aptitude.

The recent studies utilized a new device called a “talk pedometer,” which measures how much verbal interaction young children experience.

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The device sits in a vest worn by babies and toddlers and records the number of vocalizations - words, babbling, cooing, and other noises - a child outputs and the several words spoken by nearby adults. Talk pedometers document the number of conversational turns or “brief episodes of back-and-forth dialogue” the child engages in.

Researchers at LENA, a nonprofit that conducted one of the studies, analyzed talk pedometer recordings obtained from over 600 infants aged zero to nine months and determined those born during the pandemic were vocalizing less and experiencing fewer conversational turns.

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A separate Brown University study, using the school’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab - which has monitored more than 1,700 families with young children since 2010 - discovered largely comparable results.

The Ivy League’s data revealed that just one year into the pandemic, children’s average cognitive performance was at the lowest rate since the study started.

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Another Brown analysis, conducted in 2021, showed that infants were undergoing a dramatic decline in verbal functioning because adults in their lives were “initiating fewer conversational turns.”

The University’s researchers concluded that pandemic-related factors had " the greatest impact on infant and toddler neurodevelopment.” Yet, the exact reasoning for the decline in vocalizations and conversational turns isn’t explicitly clear.

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Forbes claims it is likely a combination of stressed caregivers and isolation. Although, it should be stressed that neither study addressed whether masks were interfering with language development.

Earlier this year, York University in the UK published a study showing masks make it hard for children to recognize faces and, in turn, could affect their ability to socialize and make friends.

York University researchers studied the psychological impact on students, revealing that face masks make it 20 percent more difficult for children to recognize faces, compared to only 15 percent in adults. While previous research had found that mask-wearing can hinder facial recognition in adults, the York study marked the first time it had been studied in children.

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