Speech, language and communication needs can impact upon many areas of life. When these needs are identified early, interventions can be introduced and this support can help to aid their development.
How can you look for signs that may indicate speech, language and communication needs?
Make sure to pay special attention to these three areas:
1.Listening and understanding -
Do they struggle to pay attention and/or listen, often being the last to respond?
Do they understand simple questions and instructions?
Are they limited in what they say and how they can communicate their needs and wants?
Do they struggle when interacting with others, or appear isolated?
Do they struggle with interpreting non-verbal communication or tend to avoid eye contact?
Are they difficult to understand due to unclear or muddled speech?
For an outline of the typical language development stages and what to expect at particular ages:
What can I do to develop my child’s language skills at home?
Ten top tips for supporting language development at home:
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, speak to the SENCO at your child’s nursery or school or contact your GP. They will be able to signpost you to local Speech and Language Therapy Services.
This has changed remarkably over the course of this year, due to Covid. I never imagined I would spend all my working days at home during lockdown, busily producing therapy videos and Zoom sessions for children, to continue to meet their speech, language and communication needs.
This last six months has been a steep learning process for me personally, being completely new to YouTube and having to adapt to providing therapy online. Trying to keep sessions interactive has been a challenge and my IT skills have been stretched to provide activities that are still engaging and motivating for the child.
Having to work in this new way has allowed my more creative side to open up, which has been an unexpected benefit of lockdown, from creating Lego Therapy sessions that are rewarding and yet achievable, to Learning to Learn sessions, to facilitate the child’s own ability to learn.
Now that schools are open again, I’m trying to get back to some degree of normality. Returning to school has brought its own challenges, with the need for social distancing, visors and antibacterial wipes in abundance. The schools I work in see me as an addition to their staff, so I need to follow their own policies and procedures for Covid, in addition to our own Company policies, just to ensure that to the best of our ability, everyone stays safe. As one teacher in a secondary mainstream put it; “It’s not just the children who have to adapt”. Children are now in bubbles which has meant massive timetabling rescheduling for teachers and also therapists.
I spend one day a week in a language unit attached to a mainstream secondary. These children spend a mixture of time in small classes run by the Language Unit teachers, and mainstream classes, depending on their needs. In the morning I usually catch up with staff – specialist teachers and teaching assistants, and update myself with school emails. Usually I’m photocopying resources in the library for my session before the day begins. I have a mixture of 1:1 and groups from a range of year groups. I find myself in the Science lab – not my usual room, but it’s the new Covid timetable, and lessons have different start and end times to add to the confusion. I see there’s a whiteboard – that will be good for providing extra visual resources; essential for language impaired children. One of the pupils kindly shows me how to switch on the projector (we don’t have one of these in the speech therapy room). Someone comments that they feel cold; I notice the windows are wide open and it is quite chilly, so I compromise by closing one of the windows (they need to be open if possible to allow adequate circulation and reduce risk of contracting Covid). It’s a case of having to wear many layers, especially as we approach the colder months. Usually it’s me who feels the cold, not the children.
I also support in a Science lesson; it’s hard for the language unit children to access the new topics, if they don’t have the key concepts broken down for them. Today it’s solids, liquids and gases; many new words including evaporation, condensation and sublimation (yes I manage to recall even that last one from my own school Science lessons – luckily for them!). It does help to have a good understanding of the topics being taught. I try to keep a safe distance and sit alongside children rather than facing them.
When school finishes I write up my clinical notes, check emails, file resources etc and write reports if needed. Sometimes I have to liaise with staff if there’s anything that needs following up. Then it’s wiping down tables, chairs and door handles etc, (as I’ve had to do between each session, again to reduce risk of pupils or therapist contracting Covid), before heading home.
I feel that all I have learned is transferable, and I can continue to use these skills as we continue to work through this pandemic, supporting the children with their communication needs as they continue to access their education at this significant time in their life journey.
Written by Clare Chance, Established Speech & Language therapist at Love to Communicate
As students have made their return back to to schools for the 2020-21 academic year, speech and language therapists have decided to make a comeback of their own.This year however feels very different to me compared with the past. A truly bittersweet feeling; a mixture of relief at the return to face to face working but also the pang of uncertainty of the new ways in which I would have to work when I returned to work.
A Speech and Language Therapist will often go into a number of settings during the week, with a Mary Poppins bag filled to the brim with engaging activities for the children and young people we support.
I personally go into both Primary and Secondary schools and have found that each one is doing things differently (risk assessment) aside in how they are keeping everyone safe.
In secondary schools there is a clear 2 metre distance marked in all classrooms a box were the teacher or in our case the speech and language therapist will be and beyond that the students, it is a new way of working having a bigger distance from the students than I am used to as generally our sessions would be less formal than usual school lessons, also we used to be found in our therapy room and now I am collecting students, using one-way systems or working between year bubbles within different classrooms meaning the use of sprays and hand sanitiser at every corner, entry point or classroom.
In Primary schools there is a lots of hand washing by students between activities but it is much more tricky to keep the children separated by a 2 meter box at the front of the class, not only because many of the classes are generally not big enough to tape off an area, many of the younger students are curious to the new way of working and have asked why I sound muffled in my visor or why I’m using wipes on resources or don’t understand when you say we can’t use a favourite resource because it involves passing between the students therefore adapting sessions to make them as Covid friendly as before.
Schools that may have once been filled with exciting rooms bursting with resources now look rather different, I.e, fewer desks and a much different seating plan, new rules about how to move about the school and how the students line up, the removal of excess books, libraries closed and toys removed.
Here are my top tips for school based therapists:
Take Precautions: I wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas. Face covering are generally not feasible in the intervention with students so for therapy I usually wear a visor but this can mean you sounds a little muffled and somehow also effects what you hear from the student while all the time trying to keep to the recommended social distancing.
Prepare ahead of time: Think ahead – this is particularly relevant when working in secondary schools when they have set period or year bubbles which might mean you are no longer using a therapy room but travelling from room to room, so interventions/ resources need to be ready and in a folder (I have clear folders for each period with work that I might need)
Before you start now includes cleaning any contact surfaces like desks and tables, cleaning resources or therapy equipment with antibacterial sprays and wipes
Getting back to working face to face with the children and young people is great. Many of the students had not had any contact therapy for six months and I didn’t know how they had coped with all the uncertainties and disruption, I have found that some have been more resilient than others and an open discussion about Covid was vital in easing them back into sessions.
Each student seems to have experienced lockdown differently and the amount of access or on-line work they might have completed has also varied. I feel it’s imperative to now move past the limitations, try and define what skills the students are proficient in and figure out what concepts or skills may need revisiting or recapping, so that we can support our students to move forward and keep working towards their goals.
This is my reality and just like each student has had a unique experience during Covid, I am sure each therapist will have too. I will however leave you with my final thoughts about this matter. Covid-19 has been a surreal and most peculiar time, the best piece of advice I can give is to remember to take care of yourself. This a stressful time impacting on our personal and professional lives. This situation is unprecedented in every way which is why we are activating higher levels of unease due to the uncertainty of what lies ahead, with increased levels of sadness, anxiety, anger and for some real fear.
Therapists need to practice what we preach. Make sure you’re finding ways that help you to reset and find your zen at the end of your work day
Emma McInerney, Speech and Language Therapist