19 October 2021

I CAN reflects on the death of Professor James Law OBE

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, was saddened to learn of the recent death of Professor James Law, OBE.

Professor Law was integral to setting up the What Works: Interventions for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs database, a resource developed for speech and language therapists, teachers and other professionals working in the field. As recently as 2020, James updated the guidance for the What Works site explaining how effect size is calculated and what that means. He was also a much-valued key member of its moderating groups.

James’ research into speaking and understanding helped shape I CAN’s policies and practices over recent decades. His research on population level data helped the charity consider the way it supports children and young people.

The publication of Professor Law’s paper, Child speech, language and communication need in the context of public health: A new direction for the speech and language therapy profession in 2013 was, at the time, a key driver of debate within the charity. James’s research on population level data also encouraged I CAN to explore the concepts of school readiness; readiness to start school, to move into secondary school and work readiness. 

A further aspect of James’s influence on I CAN’s work was the extent to which his research and publications fed into ‘Bercow Ten Years on’, a national review of services to support children and young people with SLCN published by I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. This review included core pieces of evidence, one of which was James’ report ‘Language as a child wellbeing indicator’ (2017). Professor Law also contributed to a round table discussion as an expert witness in an oral evidence session: language and disadvantage. James’ significant contribution to ‘Bercow Ten Years on’ helped ensure recommendations arising from the review reflected the most recent evidence. 

James was such a big part of the world of SLCN and made such a massive contribution to the field, he will be much missed by everyone at I CAN. 

Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, students, and colleagues.

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