Early identification of speech, language or communication delay is important for a child or young persons’ well-being. All practitioners have a responsibility to identify children’s needs and intervene with appropriate support as early as possible, to help children achieve the goals of ‘Every Child Matters’ and progress towards the Early Learning Goals. The importance of early language and communication skills for children’s later achievements is now well documented and the need to provide support for children at this early stage is so that they can achieve their full potential.
This means recognising a child’s difficulty quickly: both as early as possible in their life and as soon as possible after the difficulty become apparent. Early intervention means making a prompt intervention to support the child and family. It is important that the child/young person and their families are involved in decisions about their support. If a child or young person receives the right help early on, they have a better chance of tackling problems, communicating well and making progress.
Speech, Language and communication needs do not only affect language and communication, they can have a profound and lasting effect on children’s lives. Making friends, sustaining relationships, emotional regulation, problem solving and behavioural control are dependent on good speech and language skills as well as learning to read and academic achievement. In order to be included into school, home and community life good communication skills are vital. Poor communication is also a risk factor for mental health difficulties and impacts on emotional well-being.
Because of these links, there is a knock on impact on further education opportunities, employability and family stress. However, these children and young people can be supported with a wide range of resources and Speech and Language Therapists that work alongside other professional agencies. The role of a speech and language therapist (SLT) is to assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in people of all ages to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability.
They may also work with people who have eating and swallowing problems. Using specialised skills they would work directly with the child and provide support to them and their parents / carers. They may work on language intervention activities: The SLT will interact with a child by playing, talking, using pictures, books, objects, or ongoing events to stimulate language development.
The therapist may also model correct pronunciation and use repetition exercises to build speech and language skills. As a T. A that has previously supported a child with Speech and Language Difficulties, I used to work very closely with the SLT, sitting in on sessions so I could see how she delivered the sessions, and also so that we could work out the child’s targets together, so that I could also go through the exercises with the child on a daily basis.