BACKGROUND : Communication delays are the most common impairment in early childhood and have a negative effect on long-term academic,
psychological and social development. Baseline prevalence of communication delays or disorders enables adequate planning of service delivery
and successful implementation of intervention strategies, to reduce disorder prevalence.
OBJECTIVE : To determine the prevalence and describe the nature of communication delays in infants aged 6 - 12 months in underserved
communities in South Africa (SA).
METHOD : A parent interview and the Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale (RITLS) were used to collect data from the caregivers of
201 infants aged 6 - 12 months by means of convenience sampling at primary healthcare facilities in the Tshwane district, SA.
RESULTS : Thirteen percent (n=26) of infants were diagnosed with communication delay. Associations affecting language delays were
established for three risk factors (i.e. housing status, age of mother and number of siblings). The effect of combined risk factors on language
development revealed that an infant was at greatest risk (27% probability) of developing a language delay when: (i) mothers were between
the ages of 19 and 34 years; (ii) parents owned their own home; and (iii) there were three or more children in the household.
CONCLUSION : The prevalence of communication delays in the sample population was high, possibly because the majority of infants were
exposed to risk factors. The implementation of preventive measures such as awareness campaigns and developmental screening and
surveillance should be considered in the SA primary healthcare context.