The periods of home learning that have taken place over the past year have been stressful for parents and children alike, who have craved the normality, routine, and social interactions afforded by going to school. Now back into familiar routines, there is a collective sigh of relief and a renewed admiration for teachers and school staff who give tirelessly of their time and patience.
For children with SLCN, whether identified or yet to be identified, this may have been a bumpy road in their learning journey. Speech and Language Therapy has not been readily available in many areas due to the halting of routine services, resulting from the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020. It is estimated that, at that time, around 1 in 5 Speech and Language Therapists working in the NHS were redeployed to front line roles, impacting on waiting times for assessment and therapy. Overnight, Speech and Language Therapy became a more precious commodity.
However, it has not all been doom and gloom. There have also been valuable opportunities for parents to observe how their children learn, where there might be barriers and to also consider solutions. With many parents reporting that they have noticed the impact of their child’s SLCN on their learning, or perhaps have identified potential SLCN for the first time. What can parents do with this new insight into their child’s Speech, Language and Communication Needs? Here are some avenues to consider:
1. Talk to your child’s school or Early Years Setting.
Your child’s school or Early Years Setting will welcome your questions, your involvement, and the opportunity to work with you. They will be able to feedback how your child manages within the classroom environment and whether they have noted any barriers to learning. Schools who use the Speech and Language Link packages will also be able to let you know how your child did on this assessment, or whether any support has been put in place. This is a great opportunity to share concerns and agree upon next steps. This may be monitoring progress more closely, offering additional support or referring to an outside agency, such as the local Speech and Language Therapy Department.
2. What worked?
Your insight into your child’s possible speech and language difficulties can be used to best effect by thinking about what worked during home schooling; Perhaps your child concentrated better for activities where they had pictures or visuals to help them; maybe they liked you to explain what they needed to do in small chunks of information, or when you wrote it down for them. Were they better when there were frequent movement breaks, or they worked with a sibling? Even if your memory of home schooling is one of challenge and disputes with your child, now is a great time to evaluate which bits were successful and to think about why.
3. Use the Parent Portal
Speech and Language Link’s Parent portal contains a wealth of information on how speech and language develop, what is expected for each age group as well as ideas and activities to carry out at home.
4. Functional goals
We use language and communication skills every day, in every way! With a little bit of forethought, activities that your child found challenging can be worked on, step by step, through everyday functional activities: Playing a board game can increase concentration and turn taking, a garden treasure hunt can work on vocabulary and devising a story can happen on a walk. The creativity that parents demonstrated during Lockdown to promote home learning should continue to be used and celebrated!