08 January 2021

2021: New Year, new challenges for SLCN?

Below, Louisa Reeves, Head of Impact and Evidence considers what 2021 might hold for the world of Speech, Language and Communication.

(Louisa has also reviewed Ofsted's Covid-19 briefings on schools and early years settings which you can read by clicking here)

Well, if anyone was under any illusions that 2021 would give the children’s workforce any respite that has been swept away by the events of the first few weeks of the year. Many of the same challenges we faced last year are still very much in place. With some additional ones thrown in for good measure.

Predictions for a new year are traditional but it would be a brave person who would predict what will happen in the world of Speech, Language and Communication Needs in 2021. So maybe we should settle down to a wish list of what we at I CAN would like to see over the coming year. One of the major changes we’d like to see is the amount of support for children and young people with SLCN increasing in mainstream classrooms. We’d also like to see more training and support for teaching staff across all phases in SLCN and Developmental Language Disorder and how to spot and support children and young people who find understanding and using spoken language difficult. Finally, we’d like to see more familiarity amongst the general public of the challenges of SLCN and what DLD actually is. We’ll be working hard with your support to make these wishes reality in 2021.

So what can we do now to support the children and young people with speech, language and communication needs who we work with? In an uncertain world familiarity and consistency are aspects of our lives which we all value and for children and young people for whom communication is a challenge these are particularly important. There are some tried and tested support strategies which we can refresh and give a new focus to. One of the most often mentioned resources in I CAN’s audits of settings and schools is a visual timetable but frequently this isn’t used to its full potential.

A visual timetable can take many forms but at its heart, it’s a visual reminder (photo, illustration or symbol) of the activities and events of the day. These can be laid out in sequence so that everyone can see what’s happening now, what will happen next and so on. The benefit of having these as single items laid out in sequence is that if something is going to change you can show this by moving the card indicating what would normally happen and introduce the new event. To quote a famous US President: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

We all love a plan but we also all need to live with the new uncertainty this year will bring. Using visual support for children and young people with SLCN can help them establish a routine but also to cope with uncertainty and change.

There are more ideas for simple but effective ways to support children’s speech, language and communication on these links here:

Strategies for every classroom: Supporting and including pupils with speech, language and communication needs

Creating an Inclusive Classroom

(By the way the saying is from President Dwight D Eisenhower not the current incumbent...)

Happy New Year to one and all.

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