08 January 2021

I CAN's family support expansion

Amy Loxley is an I CAN Speech & Language Advisor, below she discusses the expansion of I CAN’s offer of family support

Here at I CAN we have always valued and been proud of our offer of support for families – our mission is that no child should be left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding, and our vision is a world where all children have the communication skills they need to fulfil their potential. It’s fair to say that no one needs reminding of the challenges we endured in the year 2020! But as always, times of hardship often bring opportunities for learning and growth – and this is certainly true for our offer of family support.

Until 2020, I CAN’s offer of family support included our Enquiry Service and our Talking Point website. I CAN’s Enquiry Service consists of a free help line and email address that parents or professionals can contact to discuss a concern about a child’s speech or language development with a qualified speech and language therapist. To supplement this, I CAN also have a Talking Point website, which has lots of information about typical speech and language development at different ages, tips for supporting children’s communication skills, and a Progress Checker to check a child’s skills against what is expected for their age.

An exciting development for I CAN in 2020 has been the expansion of this offer of support for families, and the introduction of some new and innovative approaches. I CAN’s family support offer has broadened so it now encompasses a graduated response to parental concerns, consisting of:

  • Our Enquiry Service
  • A series of four “TALK” parent webinars
  • The pilot of a new teletherapy service

I CAN’s “TALK” parent webinars

TALK = Talking Activities for Little Kids!

This new addition to our family support offer consists of four webinars aimed at parents of children aged 18 months to 2 ½ years who are concerned about their child’s language development. The webinars are led by a speech and language therapist who talks parents through a range of targeted activities and approaches that they can put into practice with their child at home. Parents have an opportunity to ask questions about the information provided so that they feel confident in using the strategies and approaches with their child.

In total, I CAN speech and language therapists deliver four different themed webinars, with one webinar taking place per fortnight. Parents can attend one or all of the webinars depending on their level of concern and interest in the topic presented.

The webinar topics are:

  • Supporting language development during everyday routines
  • Sharing books to develop language
  • Using songs and rhymes to develop language
  • Symbolic noises and first words

Following the webinars, parents are advised to put into practice the strategies and approaches presented and contact the Enquiry Service again if their child has not made progress over a three-month period. Families may then be referred to I CAN’s teletherapy pilot if appropriate/available, or advised to self-refer to their local Speech and Language Therapy service if indicated.

Families are referred to the webinars through the Enquiry Service – so families who are concerned about their child’s speech and language development should first contact the Enquiry Service to speak with a speech and language therapist about their concerns, and they will then be referred to the webinars and advised of how to book a place if appropriate.

I CAN’s teletherapy pilot

The third level of our graduated response to parental concerns is I CAN’s teletherapy service. We are at the early stages of piloting this exciting new service with a small selection of families who have come through our Enquiry Service. For the first phase of the pilot, families of children aged 2 ½ to 3 years are being offered parent-child interaction therapy over Zoom, either following a group model of delivery (with a combination of group and individual sessions) or through individual sessions only.

I CAN are piloting the teletherapy service over a time-limited period initially, and evaluating its effectiveness, to help plan future support for families. Once again, families are referred to this through the Enquiry Service – so the first port of call for families who are concerned about their child’s speech and language development would be to contact the Enquiry Service and have a confidential chat with a speech and language therapist.

Developing these new services and the graduated offer of support for families has been a busy but very productive and interesting time for I CAN staff. With the first cohort of families having their teletherapy assessments in December and starting online therapy in January, the start of 2021 promises to be intriguing as well! We are very excited to be expanding our offer of family support and eagerly awaiting the results of our evaluation.

It’s true that the year 2020 has been an interesting one – but we can’t wait to see what direction we’re headed in 2021!

 

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