Trauma and communication development

THE language skills of children who are abused and/or neglected are delayed compared to their peers, according to studies.

Adverse childhood experiences can greatly impact a child’s development (mental health and well-being), including their communication.

It is estimated that young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences in the first three years of childhood, face a 76 per cent likelihood of having one or more delays in their language, emotional or brain development.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, about 3.4 million children in Ghana had experienced some form of neglect and abuse.

This suggests approximately one out of every four children in Ghana.


Children develop communication skills when exposed to a language-rich environment and reciprocal interaction (back-and-forth interaction with adults and peers).

It is good to note, however, that the lack of these opportunities alone is not always the reason for speech and language communication needs in children, although they are important.

Different aspects of a child’s language and communication skills are impacted following trauma.

These include understanding and use of language.

Trauma, like neglect and abuse, has a great impact on children’s language development.

Children with speech, language and communication difficulties are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

Children who have experienced abuse or neglect are often not identified early.

They may also have certain behaviour that may be found to be challenging.

It is important for caregivers and teachers to be aware of these to be able to support their children.

Intervention for children who have experienced trauma is often provided late for various reasons.

Unfortunately, it is often underestimated.

Usually, when the trauma results from an action from a family member or close relation, families may want to deal with the issue internally without seeking redress for their child through the legal system, as well as much-needed therapy for the child.

For families who may want help for their children, they may find it costly.

Bureaucracy may also be discouraging for families who want to seek help for their children.


Speech, language and communication intervention for children who have experienced trauma has so many benefits for them and their families and society in general.

It improves their language skills, confidence, self-esteem and life outcomes.

It also helps them to engage in academic learning, to establish relationships and be able to share their experiences in order to get the required appropriate professional help.

Therapists engage children in fun activities that provide an opportunity for these children to experience meaningful interactions that they enjoy and most importantly, they learn from.

They begin to get their voice back.

With support from interventions, they begin to enjoy their childhood and make positive progress.

The writer is a Speech and Language Therapist/Clinical Tutor,
University of Ghana.

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |