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Using research to inform practice in supporting children's speech, language and communication

This month may have been a shock to the system. The back to school feeling means our energies are focused on a new term and for early years practitioners on saying hello to new children. It's also a time to set new goals with the families and this month's blog focuses on using research and evidence to support children's outcomes. 

Achieving good outcomes always involves observations, analysis and reflection (a bit like the observation-assessment-planning or the plan-do-review cycles we're so familiar with). In an era of #fakenews and extravagant claims how do we know what to believe or how to choose approaches that support children's progress with language and communication?

How research informs practice

Theoretical approaches and research inform pedagogy in early years practice, and there are a number of ways in which we know this has happened. The Effective Preschool Provision Project (EPPE) for example provides evidence that endorses the impact of pre-school provision. The Early years Foundation Stage (EYFS) was developed on a basis of the research around child initiated play and adult supportive strategies that we are so familiar with. Continuing research by groups such as LuCiD has shown the effectiveness and impact of these strategies.

LuCid - The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development - is a five year research collaboration working with partners from across the world to transform understanding of how children learn to communicate with language. They have produced a number of papers and reports, including a series of articles that have identified key strategies that support children's language development, as well as fascinating information about ways that children learn language.

Additionally, reports such as 'The role of language in children's early educational outcomes' identified the key factors that support children at home and can influence our recommendations and guidance for parents.

Supporting children with SLCN

It can be challenging to know the best ways to support children who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). The 2010 Ofsted special educational needs and disability review found that too often people focused on whether or not support was put in place, rather than whether it was effective. More specifically for children and young people with SLCN, in 2012 the Better Communication Research Programme found there to be a number of well-used interventions that had little evidence to support their implementation in practice. Both of these reports have been the catalyst to an increased focus on the impact of the support we put in place.

The strong recommendation arising out of these reports has been around making sure we have evidence for interventions that work in practice. In turn we’ve seen an increase in databases such as the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Teaching and Learning Toolkit, the Early Intervention Foundation Guidebook, and specifically for children’s SLCN the What Works database of interventions.

However, with young children where there are concerns it can be difficult to know the next steps or right way to support children and families. I CAN has developed some factsheets to support practitioners around some frequently asked questions. Additionally, if you have any questions or want to talk through how to support a child you can talk to one of I CAN's speech and language therapists. You can book a call or email your questions. They will be able to give you evidence informed suggestions and practical advice, as well as signposting to other organisations for further support.

Reflecting on practice

What research and evidence based approaches inform your practice? Can you describe them and discuss with a colleague?

How do you keep your practice around supporting children's speech, language and communication evidence informed and up to date? You may find it useful to look at I CAN's evidence page and follow I CAN’s social media for updates.

Where do you go to for support and additional information? These may be local or national. Find out more

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