Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Children's Chatter - Wendy Lee, Professional Director

I am on a train travelling from London to Leeds. I do this a lot and usually get a phenomenal amount of work done on my travels. In my carriage are around 12 children with their teachers. The children are fairly young, but are full of talk; asking questions in long and complicated sentences, talking together with short spurts of questions, comments, interjected the whole time with laughter and the occasional reminder from one of the teachers to keep the noise down to an acceptable level.

Honestly, on a different day, I might find it a bit irritating, trying to get on with work with this clamour as a backdrop, but today I can’t help be impressed with their typical language development (sad, but true). You can almost hear the cogs whirling round as the children talk, as they manipulate language to work out how to find out about complicated situations they have seen, sharing their views, opinions and experiences, seeking clarification from their teachers. You can feel the personality of these youngsters coming through.

The thing is, this situation is one that for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) find extremely challenging – to join in with quick fire conversations, with the banter and turn taking, knowing when to listen and when to interrupt, being able to say the right thing to the teacher and the right thing to friends, to be clear in their speech and tell entertaining and understandable tales of their adventures, to share likes and dislikes, best bits and worst bits – to ask “are we nearly there yet.....”

Tomorrow I will be talking to some children with SLCN, some have pretty obvious speech difficulties, though in others it's more subtle. They can come across as maybe a little younger than their years, maybe a little slower to respond and not as able to construct the free flowing conversations as their typically developing peers.

As part of the Hello campaign, we want to raise awareness of children with SLCN and to ensure they are in the forefront of the minds of local and national leaders. We are in challenging times at the coal face of children’s services, so it seems even more important to highlight the fundamental importance of speech and language. As part of the campaign we are asking everyone to write to their MP and to their local council.

We have provided all the information you need to do this in our You’re the Voice resource. Download it today and spread the word at www.hello.org.uk/resources.

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