Friday 1 February 2019

Doesn't listen, is rude, homophobic, racist and fights with other children!; why he's my kind of child

Rant alert!!!!

I find myself getting increasingly angry when I hear about the lack of understanding of the impact of speech language and communication difficulties.

Yesterday, I met a young man aged 11 years: He was charming, polite, eager to please the adult .


  • has significant auditory processing difficulties, which means he finds listening and attending in the classroom situation very difficult  (previously identified by Ed Psychologist)
  • has a very poor auditory memory and poor verbal understanding which means following classroom instructions is extremely difficult for him (previously identified by NHS SLT)
  • has expressive language difficulties, of which he is very aware but he does not want people to know, so he masks this in a variety of ways, one of which is  by using words and phrases but he has heard other 'cool' children using. Occasionally, this is racist or homophobic but he is unaware of this as he has heard others using this language freely. As he does not know it is rude or wrong, he will use it in front of school staff. (vocabulary issue previously identified by NHS SLT)
  • has very, very literal understanding, so he will do a exactly as they say e.g.  'work quietly'  will mean he still talks (albeit quietly), 'stand here' means he finds the exact spot (identified previously by NHS SLT)
  • he cannot initiate communication as he has pragmatic difficulties and  asking for help is one of the hardest things to initiate. He may ask a person next to him what he supposed to do but he's unlikely to ask the teacher...... then he gets into trouble for not doing what is supposed to do or talking
  • he has impaired executive function so is impulsive, has difficulty initiating tasks and organising himself.  
  • he is desperate to have friends and to be liked, so will do things to impress people.Sometimes this is to be the class clown, sometimes looking very silly
  • he is not good at relationships with other children, he does not read their intentions so is very vulnerable to children whose intentions are not good. 
  • he cannot negotiate so is likely to fallout with children and need support for interactions

He also has increasing anxiety, poor confidence and  low self-esteem (not surprising!).

This young man with all these barriers to his learning and making friends has an education and healthcare plan so should be receiving lots of help.......... is he?

NO: he just been excluded for low level disruptive behaviour e.g. not listening, being rude, homophobic, racist and fighting with other children!

This is a prime example of a child with speech language and communication difficulties being totally, totally missed understood. If he had a label e.g. autism or ADHD or looked different e.g. down syndrome, cerebral palsy, people would make allowances and  would want to do their best but because he looks 'normal' and has no label, he is being totally totally let down by the system .

We desperately need the 'unique child' label to be more than just that; a label. How does the term, that is flippantly passed around in meetings, look? This child needed his strengths and his weaknesses identifying and accommodations made. His behaviour is communication!

Please let's look behind the behaviour, why is a child behaving badly? Those who need the most help ask for it in the least helpful ways! I've just been judging the communication Trust Shine a light awards and there's some great SLCN work going on in the justice system but let's not let it get that far, lets get it right early on before the damage is done. 

School staff need more training and more support! We need more speech and language therapy so school and SLT can work together for children, like the olden days when I worked in Dudley circa 1988; we have gone backward not forwards!

I did warn you it was a rant!