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Supporting children with communication and language development

The saying “a lot can happen in a year” is certainly true for me.

Soon after writing my first blog for PACEY last year, my husband waved a job application in front of me saying he thought it was ‘written with me in mind’. It wasn’t something I was even considering but after reading about the job role and description, I understood what he meant. It was a Specialist Practitioner supporting children and Families with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) for my local authority service and it was something I was passionate about.  I left it on the (already mounting) pile of paperwork on my dining room table until one evening I decided to apply and sent off my CV. My attitude was ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and if it didn’t work out then at least I was still happy doing the job I enjoyed and excelled in.

Around the same time, I had been researching the opportunity to further my academic study and had visited Pen Green Research Centre in Corby to attend their top up degree open day and I registered to start in September 2016.

A few weeks later I was surprised to receive a call congratulating me on getting selected for an interview for the SEND position so, armed with a few props, my CPD folder and a bag of nerves twice the size , off I went.

A week went by and I carried on with my childminding role as usual when out of the blue came the call. I had been successful and when can I start? Well the rest is history, as they say! After sitting down as a family to discuss all the changes and the need to organise childcare for my youngest daughter (who now attends a lovely local childminder), the hours I would work and the fact I was now embarking on a top up degree, was all quite nerve wracking and stressful but I decided to go ahead.

The transition to my new job role has been amazing in enabling me to continue working with many children and families with SEND with the valuable support of my family, friends and childcare colleagues past and present. I regularly visit settings and schools to observe and support staff, as well as work in the homes of the families.

This has all been a good experience to help me to expand my knowledge and skills in areas I wasn’t so confident in, as well as being in line within my current area of study which involves my interest in how practitioners can support children’s development of language and communication in the Early Years.

As we all know, there have been many changes, as always, within the education and childcare sector with legislation being reviewed, revised and rewritten. For me, the latest interesting aspect under review is the national service provision for supporting children with speech, language and communication needs, (SLCN) after nearly a decade! The initial findings in 2008 from the Bercow report was an interesting one.  

My personal interest and research in using BSL/Makaton as a sign support alongside speech, as a tool for supporting and helping children to develop language and communication, meant I could reflect on the feedback and evidence from the Bercow report and see what outcomes were highlighted as well as collate current evidence from observations in settings and feedback from practitioners and teachers.

For my current degree dissertation, I am eager to gain as much feedback as I can from all early years practitioners across the sector, about how you support children with speech, language and communication development regardless of age or ability. The survey is anonymous and only takes a minute, so if you can complete it then I would be grateful for your current perspective.

As every practitioner knows, communication is crucial for any child to be able to feel listened to, be understood, feel included, be able to engage and socialise with others and ultimately impacts every area of their learning and development.

With PACEY’s recently published article 'Tackling hearing loss head on' in the latest Childcare Professional, in collaboration with the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), it highlights the important role of all Early Years professionals being able to spot and identify any child’s difficulty with hearing or language development early. Following this, is the equal importance of being able to get the right support and intervention in place for that child and family as soon as possible. The research and studies around children with speech, language, and communications needs (SLCN) show that the earlier the child gets help, the better the chances they have of making good progress and having positive outcomes.

There are many support strategies, interventions and general guidance out there for practitioners in regards to supporting children’s difficulties around hearing, speech, language and communication development so if you want to find out more then visit pacey.org.uk/ndcs

I hope the review of Bercow report, covering the national provision of services for supporting children with SLCN brings further improvements and better support for the children, their families and the practitioners like you and me who work alongside them.

If children don’t have a voice, then it’s our duty to speak up for them.

Thanks, Jude

More information and resources for caring for children with SEND

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