Developmental delays higher among Quebec’s Anglo pre-schoolers

‘The two contrasts here are quite shocking,’ says researcher Pocock

Developmental delays higher among Quebec’s Anglo pre-schoolers
From the left, Agape social worker Ian Williams, statistical research consultant Joanne Pocock and Agape executive-director Kevin McLeod
Martin C. Barry

A statistical report prepared for the Agape Association, comparing the developmental delays of kindergarten children enrolled at French and English school boards across the province, paints an alarming picture of the higher vulnerability of English-speaking pre-school children in Quebec.

The report – Selected Characteristics of Laval’s English-speaking Children 0-5 – was compiled and written by Dr. Joanne Pocock, an Ottawa-based statistical research consultant who has also produced statistical reports for the Quebec Community Groups Network. It was released on March 22 during a gathering of Laval-area social services providers at the Centre Jeunesse de Laval on Cartier Blvd.

Development delays

“Here we are looking at kindergarten children experiencing developmental delay in at least one domain,” Pocock said in an interview, while pointing to some PowerPoint graphics she said illustrate the situation.

“This is the French-language system. This is the English-language system over the same territory. If you look at all of Quebec, what is red is where there are high levels of delay, and so vulnerable children. And the dark green is where there are low levels.”

Contrast is startling

As Pocock pointed out, not a single green spot is to be found in the French chart, although it shows some patches of red. By contrast, the English chart – illustrating the same problem for developmental delay in 0-5 year-old kids speaking English – is solid red.

“To me the two contrasts here are quite shocking,” said Pocock. She was asked whether she drew any conclusion from the picture drawn by the data. “I could only hypothesize,” she said cautiously.

Socio-economic decline

“One thing we know about developmental delays in 0-5 children, one thing we look at in socio-economic status of the community but also of the family, at 0-5 your life is kind of still wrapped up in your parents, in your mother, what have you. So we’ve seen socio-economic decline in the Anglophone communities. It may be playing out in this developmental delay. That’s a speculation entirely, though.”

She also offered the following tentative explanation. “The other thing is access to services. Usually if you didn’t get your pre-natal classes, if you don’t have health literacy, if you’re not engaged with your health system, if you’re not getting an early diagnosis and treatment for your 0-5 child, then that can show up in developmental delay at the kindergarten level.”

Developmental delays higher among Quebec’s Anglo pre-schoolers

Change needed, says McLeod

Agape executive-director Kevin McLeod agreed the findings are alarming. “It’s overwhelming,” he said. “So many delays across Quebec for English-speaking kindergarten children. We already knew this in Laval, but to see it all across Quebec like that really says that we need to be making changes.”

He maintained that more early intervention may offer the solution, although there are other problems in the system. “One of the biggest issues we’re facing in Quebec is waiting times for diagnosis. Whether you’re English or French-speaking it’s unacceptable. Children nowadays wait for evaluations and can be waiting for up to a year-and-a-half for diagnosis.”

Lone parent impact

Some other findings from the survey: In 2016 in Quebec’s English-speaking communities, there was a greater tendency for females to be living in lone parent families compared to males. In the Laval region and in all four CLSC territories, there are more English-speaking females living in lone parent families than English-speaking males.

The greatest proportion of children 0-5 living in a lone parent household for both the French and English language communities of Laval are located in CLSC Pont-Viau. In 2016, there were high levels of low income among Quebec’s English speakers aged 25 to 44. In the Laval region, 28.8 per cent of English speakers aged 25 to 44 were living on an annual income under $20,000.

Some other findings

In 2016, the tendency to be earning over $50,000 was lower among Quebec Anglophones aged 25 to 44 compared to Francophones of the same age. In Laval, this holds true although the gap between the minority (35.2 per cent) and majority group (38.4 per cent) is somewhat smaller.

Provincially, English-speaking children aged 0-5 are more likely to be living below the low income cut-off (LICO) compared to Francophone children of the same age. In Laval, the tendency of children 0-5 to be living below LICO varies across CLSC territories for both language communities.