, and is probably the hardest thing our brains have to master. The fact that we can talk and read so efficiently is amazing in its self, and is often taken for granted. We need to be able to talk, that is a fact. Without being able to talk, we can’t learn or socially develop. However, many of us fail to spot serious issues concerning kids and speech. If a child can’t speak as well as his/her friends, many will think it is not a huge deal, many will think it is just a stage and it will pass. This is (unfortunately) not always the case.
Speech, Language and Communication Needs
In the UK, one in ten students has SLCN which need long term treatment. This means on average there are 2 to 3 children in each class with communication difficulties. That is a huge amount. In parts of the UK (particularly those who suffer from high levels of poverty) more than half of kids begin their education with SLCN. This can have serious consequences such as struggling to make friends, failing to learn important and basic skills, and eventually behavioural or anger issues developing. These children have immature language, meaning they may struggle to speak clearly, struggle to speak in complete sentences and use the same, basic vocabulary. If children who struggle from these things are not identified and supported, the misbehaviour which may come as a result of SLCN can develop into more serious issues like social exclusion, or (in worst case scenarios) criminal activity. For further information and resources for children and communication difficulties, please go to I CAN the children s communication charity.
Children in care are at greater risk
When a child is put into care it can be very traumatic for him/her. The constant changing of environment and the countless number of difficulties of being in the care system can be very traumatising. Unfortunately this trauma can and often will lead to emotional, social and behavioural difficulties. Around 60-90% of children with emotional, social or behavioural difficulties have had (at one point or another) SLCN. So, by putting 2 and 2 together, it is clear that foster children are far more vulnerable and far more likely to suffer from SLCN. Fortunately, being able to support children’s communication development can help minimise the impact of these difficulties, and that is where the hugely important role of foster parents come in.
The role of foster carers
Foster carers have the biggest and often most important role in helping a child’s communication skills. They can and must play a crucial role in identifying if a child has SLCN, and helping the child overcome and work with these difficulties. Research has shown that children who receive some sort of aid or assistance with their speech and language needs by the age of 5 and a half have the best chance of progressing in later life, i.e. doing well in school, building good relationships and social skills, and developing good literacy skills.
Now are some tips on how anyone spending time with the child can help with his/her communication skills.
- Give the kids time! Children often need time to understand and comprehend what is being said to them, so make sure you do not rush them.
- 2. Make sure they have understood you! You need to make sure that the child is taking in what is being said. Otherwise, the child may seem naughty or disobedient, when he/she is not actually doing anything wrong.
- 3. Get the right environment to learn! It is no good trying to teach a child when they are surrounded by distractions. Make sure the child is focussed, so what you are doing has maximum effect.
- 4. When they don’t get it right, repeat what they ‘should have said’ back to them. This one is quite straight forward, the child needs to be reminded what the right answer is for them to improve.
- 5. ‘Build’ children’s speech by adding in a new word or idea. If you give the child a way or mean to improve their speech, they will incorporate it into what they are saying. Children cannot learn to build their mental dictionary without being given some ideas!
If you feel your child or a child you know is suffering from SLCN, it is best to look into it further. There are many aids online such as ican.org.uk (the children’s communication charity), which will give you good advice and tips on what to do, and when to take further action.
If you would like further information or training with regards to communicating with children in the care system, please contact Ian Johnson at www.simplyfosteringconsultancy.co.uk