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. Has this new insight prompted an awakening by some parents in identifying their children’s Speech, Language and Communication Needs?
The merits of parental involvement and awareness, in supporting positive educational outcomes for children are well documented. The challenges of home learning put a spotlight on areas of difficulty, with parents of children with SLCN citing that they had struggled more with the mode of lesson delivery, the organisation skills required to access the learning, the pace of activities and the demand on the child to take responsibility in this process. For some parents, this may have been the first time that they have been able to see these difficulties through an SLCN lens.
This is backed up by the anecdotal evidence of parents, who have remarked upon an increased awareness of the live and observable impact of their child’s SLCN on their learning and attainment, which had previously been less visible to them, in the comfort and low demand home setting.
If there is a renewed parental awareness, how we can we use this to its best effect? An awareness that SLCN underpins all areas of learning is crucial. Has this time opened a communication channel with parents, to identify SLCN and to focus on joint problem solving, with a renewed and shared understanding?