Huge numbers of children in the UK struggle to acquire language skills, and many go unidentified and unsupported. At Speech Link Multimedia Ltd we wanted to create a resource that would support staff to better identify and work with all children with SLCN in order to close the attainment gap. The DfE are warning that the attainment gap could widen by as much as 75%, due to Covid disruption, and so it is even more crucial that school staff have the knowledge and skills to identify children with SLCN and put support in place.
There has been a greater focus on SLCN in schools in recent years and school staff are getting better at identifying children, but children continue to fall through the gaps. So what are the challenges that schools face in working with and supporting SLCN?
Firstly, the scale of the problem is huge, with SLCN now the most common primary area of need for children on SEN support. We know that:
- 7% of children will have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)
- 3% of children will have a Language Disorder in association with another condition that results in difficulties with language and communication skills, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Up to 50% of children are starting school with poor language skills, particularly in areas of social disadvantage, that are not adequate to support their next steps in their learning
These significant gaps in language skills have been found to be much larger than gaps in other co
gnitive skills, putting these children at a disadvantage from the start. Without the right support in place, they cannot catch up to their peers, resulting in a significant attainment gap.
Another real problem we face is the difficulty in identifying these children. Language difficulties are complex, with the nature of difficulties often changing over time and becoming even more complex. They can be described as a ‘hidden need’ as understanding language is not something that we are able to observe. Children can be very good at masking their language difficulties, showing other ‘symptoms’ that are easier to see or understand, such as poor literacy skills, difficulty making friendships, poor progress and challenging behaviour. Costly resources and interventions are often put in place to target ‘symptoms’ rather than the underlying cause of children’s difficulties.
Finally, speaking and listening skills are not seen as an important part of learning – oral language is barely mentioned in the national curriculum, and only then in relation to English. Even though they underpin everything that we need to learn and make progress in school, there is still limited understanding of the importance of oral language skills.
The reference guide has been created to demonstrate that identifying and supporting children with SLCN doesn’t need to be so difficult and is certainly not impossible. There are practical, evidence-based solutions for supporting SLCN in schools and the eBook reflects our experience working as speech and language therapists in education settings.
What does the eBook provide for schools?
Developing an increased understanding and awareness of SLCN in schools, and the impact of this, is crucial in enabling us to bridge the gap. The eBook cuts through the jargon, making SLCN terminology accessible for all, explaining what you need to know to best identify and support SLCN.
Tools to Identify SLCN:
The eBook outlines what to look out for in school, to better enable staff to identify pupils with SLCN, including a practical checklist to work through if you have concerns about a pupil and a step by step guide for making your classroom communication friendly.
Tried and Tested Strategies:
It is a challenge for teachers to adapt and change their classroom practice, and teachers themselves have often expressed a lack of confidence in how to support children with SLCN. Just the way in which teaching staff talk to children can have a significant influence on their understanding and learning, but despite this, high quality teaching strategies are not the norm. In addition, teachers can be overwhelmed with the number of strategies and recommendations that are given by professionals to support individual children in their class. In the eBook, we have outlined our core evidence-based, practical strategies that will support ALL children in your classroom, but particularly those with SLCN. Given the numbers of children with SLCN and the wide range of children that staff encounter in schools, putting these strategies in place is crucial for supporting their access to learning. Once these are in place, we then look at different SLCN diagnoses that children may have, so that you have access to more specific strategies as and when they are needed.
The eBook is designed to enable you to understand the needs of the children in your classroom so that they can meet their potential. We hope you will join us on our mission to ensure that all children with SLCN are supported.
We are offering a copy of The Ultimate Guide to SLCN (RRP £23.99) to every school who completes a trial of Speech Link or Infant Language Link (Ts&Cs apply)
To find out more visit: https://speechandlanguage.info/trial