Tuesday 29 May 2012

Video campaign to raise awareness of SLI

The Community Trust Logo

One child in every reception classroom is affected by a specific language impairment, a little recognised condition that affects all aspects of life, prompting a group of leading academics to come together and launch RALLI, a video led campaign to raise awareness. 

Specific language impairment (SLI) hinders understanding and expressive language and can impact on how children learn, form friendships and on educational development. Despite how common the condition is, it receives little recognition, with many children and their families missing out on accessing much needed help and support as a result.

To change this, academics Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at Oxford University, Gina Conti-Ramsden, Professor of Child Language and Learning at the University of Manchester, Courtenay Norbury, Head of the Literacy, Language and Communication Laboratory at
Royal Holloway, University of London and Maggie Snowling, Professor of Psychology at the University of York, have joined forces to launch RALLI, Raising Awareness of Language Learning Impairments. Aimed at children, parents, families and education professionals, it will share video stories based on people’s experiences of SLI and what can be done to help those affected. RALLI has been launched with funding support from Afasic, The Waterloo Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Professor Dorothy Bishop commented: “Language impairments can have a dramatic impact on children. Research shows that two in five children who have the condition say they have difficulties interacting with peers and, children with SLI are twice as likely to be bullied. These issues do not stop as they grow older, in fact, teenagers with language impairment are two and half times more likely to
report symptoms of anxiety or depression. That’s why we had to take action and launch RALLI, to raise awareness of those who suffer.”

Becky Clark,RALLI editor and a speech and language therapist said: “Our ambition is to bring together the leading academics in the field, alongside children and families affected, to produce informed, relevant video that will shine a light on SLI and ultimately help many other children. The channel will become a place where people can come and get reliable information, but also comment
and discuss the issues. We’re really hoping to build a community as well as raising awareness.”

Professor Conti-Ramsden said: “Like all the members of RALLI, when I tell people about my work in SLI, most people have never heard of the condition; that’s why I got involved. It’s essential we raise awareness of SLI so that children and families can get an early diagnosis and get the help they need.”

Professor Snowling said: “Studies show that often children with dyslexia have an underlying language impairment. It is important to have greater recognition of the complexity of the problems associated
with SLI and support for the professionals helping those affected.”
Dr Courtenay Norbury commented: “I would love everyone who watches the RALLI videos to consider how important language is. Imagine if you were not able to understand or express yourself in the way everyone else could and the impact this would have across the whole of your day. So, watch RALLI, then if you like it, pass it on to six of your friends and family. We hope it will change people’s
knowledge of SLI for good.”

To find out more about SLI and to watch the launch videos, please go to RALLI’s YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/rallicampaign

Thursday 10 May 2012

Verbal reasoning....... how do we measure it?

The development of Verbal reasoning skills has fascinated me for a long, long time but I haven't found anything apart from Maggie Johnson's Canterbury and Thanet Scales  that I could really use to show the process or really explain the development to school staff.

I am working with a particular little boy, Peter aged 4years 11 months. who just can't understand language which is anything but concrete and in the 'here and now'. It hasn't been too big a problem until now he's in the third term in reception. He knows he should say something but when its his turn to answer a question he will just say anything that pops into his head. This is of course causing much hilarity among his peers and mixed reactions from staff. Is he doing it deliberatley, is he trying to wind them up? They really don't know how  they should be responding. The NHS SLT and I had been working on 'Why-because' activities especially those from Black Sheep press.

Last week, I was delighted to discover the Test of Abstract Language by Elks and McLachlan and used it yesterday to identify where Peter's specific difficulties lie.

There are 4 levels as identified by Blank, Rose and Berlin in 1978.
1.    Matching perception e.g. where's the lorry? Find me the train

2.    Selective analysis of perception e.g. finding object by function which on flies, putting pictures of related objects together, recall info from a statement Such as who, what, where,

3.    Level 3 following direction e.g. do this, planning and giving directions, formulate a story which links pictures, describe events and predict, assume the role of another e.g. what could he say, identify similarities, differences

4.    Level 4 requires abstract verbal problem solving e.g. why, inference, cause, explain why something can't happen

On the assessment Peter. struggled with some level 2 i.e. recalling who, what, where from a story.

For level 3 he could not formulate a story from pictures, describe and predict. Therefore he is between level 2 and 3. The why because comes in level 4

Therefore, we need to rethink what we're doing and take it to the right level for him.

One of the things that occurred to me while I was reading the work by Blanc is that when something goes wrong especially bad behaviour in nursery and reception, we always ask children, tell me what happened and why did you do that. These are both concepts beyond many young children especially when they're anxious. At this time their understanding will be blocked further (weakest link phenomenon).

Wed already been looking at what goes together and what doesnt belong so we can keep doing that. We need to do more stories with questions and putting pictures into sequences/talking about them. Ive got some lovely things on a narrative programme (Black Sheep press) that I will take into school and leave for them too.

See:http://www.elklan.co.uk/ for accredited courses we can deliver from Small Talk and  http://www.blacksheeppress.co.uk/

Sunday 6 May 2012

Help pre-schoolers' communication skills... urgent action required!!

Middle-class children hear 33 million words by the time they start school - 23 million more than poorer children of the same age, a Government adviser has revealed.

According to Frank Field, the Governments advisor on poverty, collapse in parenting skills in poor homes with unstable families blights a child's prospects by the time they are three-years-old.

In a report on child deprivation, he said that wealthier children from stable homes will have heard 440,000 more positive comments from their parents than children from dysfunctional families by the age of three. As speech & language therapists know, the level of communication between a parent and child has a more drastic impact on a child's future than any other factor including class, race or income.  The findings are only set to continue for future generations if action is not taken as young people brought up  in dysfunctional families have no experience of being a good parent when it comes to raising their own children.

    Mr Field aims to 'break into this cycle of deprivation so the whole thing is not automatically handed on the next generation'. He is calling for a 'parenting curriculum' at schools where pupils will learn about child care as well as a formal 'rites of passage' ceremonies attended by local mayors for children not christened. 

    Some of the latest research is very damning as it shows that youngsters who were behind when they started school never caught up to their peers. He blamed the situation on the low aspirations of parents trapped in poverty where no one in the family has worked for generations. These parents do not bother to play with, talk to or read to their children. Mr Field’s study warned that children’s life chances were almost entirely determined before they even got to school.

    His report called for health visitors to measure children’s behaviour and communication skills from the age of two to catch youngsters who were falling behind in their development.

    The reason I started Smart talkers Pre-School groups was an attempt to address some of these issues see www.smarttalkers.org.uk

    What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

    Wednesday 2 May 2012

    Farewell to Communication Trust Director

     Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director of The Communication Trust, a coalition of nearly 50 voluntary and community based organisations specialising in speech, language and communication, has announced that she is to step down after five years in post.

    Kerwin-Nye originally founded The Communication Trust in 2007 alongside BT, I CAN, Council for Disabled Children and Afasic to support the development and training of the children’s workforce and
    to influence policy. Five years on, and the Trust has:
    • Grown from 8 to 48 consortium members and been cited by The Cabinet Office as an exemplar model of collaboration and coalition.
    • Extended the reach of the Trust by training over 3,000 people in the early years, schools and youth justice workforce on how to support children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
    • Impacted heavily on policy including successful influencing of speech, language and communication in the early years agenda.
    • Developed, in partnership with City and Guilds, a new mandatory Level 3 Award in supporting children and young people’s speech, language and communication.
    • Delivered the Hello campaign (national year of communication) in partnership with Jean Gross CBE, formerly Communication Champion for children. 200 Local Co-ordinators supported Hello,
    320,000 free resources were disseminated to families and the children’s workforce and it is estimated that 72% of UK adults were reached by Hello media coverage (Metrika analysis).

    In her previous role as Director of Communications for I CAN, Anita developed the Make Chatter Matter campaign. This seminal campaign helped lobby for the Bercow Review into Services for Children and
    Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs calling for a Communication Champion and awareness raising campaign to make communication everyone’s business. Anita Kerwin-Nye says: “I am remarkably proud of The Communication Trust and how far we have come in five years. As a collective of voluntary organisations, we have striven to improve services and
    awareness for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). “When I first joined the speech and language sector, there was very little general awareness that
    communication skills were a vital commodity for individuals, families and society as a whole. It was hidden that 1 million children have some form of SLCN that can affect them early, severely and for life.
    The children’s workforce felt under confident in this area and parents were battling a system where their child’s needs were falling between the stools of health and education. “To put SLCN on the map, we have had to emerge the vital importance of all children and young
    people’s communication development. Early identification of children’s needs is only possible when there is recognition amongst the workforce and parents about what typical communication development looks like. We still have a long way to go but things have improved and the voluntary sector has acted as one of the biggest catalysts for change.
    Kerwin-Nye continues: “By developing a coalition of 48 voluntary organisations, The Communication Trust speaks as one voice on speech and language issues whilst supporting individual members’ work
    streams. There is so much credibility and expertise held within the Trust and the focus over the next six months will be on showcasing what works to support children’s communication and SLCN and
    disseminating it to the widest possible audience.

    “As we put the finishing touches to The Communication Trust’s Impact Report outlining the difference we have made in five years, it feels the right time to move on. A strong strategy has been put in place
    for the next five years and I know I am leaving it in the very capable hands of the Trust’s staff team. Norbert Lieckfeldt, Chief Executive of The British Stammering Association, says: “It is unusual to have a
    coalition of this kind. In a time when organisational mergers and cost efficiency drives are coming into force, The Communication Trust is a model of how it can be done. Anita’s leadership and her ability to
    bring organisations together to work towards a common goal, whilst supporting their individual strategies, have been remarkable. She will be sorely missed but her legacy is leaving the Trust and its
    members in a strong position and with a clear direction for future work.”

    Kerwin-Nye will be succeeded from May 1st in the interim by Cara Evans, Operations Director, who will work closely with Adrian Hosford, Chair of The Communication Trust, on implementing the Trust’s next
    five year plan. The Trust will be building on the legacy of the Hello campaign by launching a campaign in the near future to place communication at the heart of schools’ policy and practice.