Yesterday I attended a guest lecture regarding speech and language development. The lecture was interesting and informative and provided me with an insight on practitioners views of a speech and language therapist. It was interesting to see how strongly practitioners felt about having speech and language therapists in preschool settings.
The lecture itself focused on the lecturers research project in which a band 5 speech and language therapist was invited to attend weekly workshops with groups of preschool children at 4 preschools in a county in the UK. She discussed the reason behind the research – the reason being that the speech and language skills in school are not quite as good as they were 2 to 3 years ago. The change has been significant and therefore something needs to be done before it is too late. The target was therefore on preschool children that were about to begin school. The idea was that if speech and language skills are improved at a young age then it’ll cost the government less in the future.
The research, like most, wasn’t without its problems. Speech and language therapists are trained in clinical settings on a one on one basis with the child. However, this research required a speech and language therapist to work with a group of preschool children, in 4 different, diverse and challenging preschool settings rather than a nice, quiet, pleasant room. Evidently, the newly qualified speech and language therapist struggled greatly and quit the research project within a month, delaying the speech and language intervention process. There was also poor parental response, commitment and engagement from parents which made the study challenging. However, there a ways this could be improved. Social media is very prominent in today’s society. Although I am still very much on the fence about the idea of children using technology I am all for parents getting involved in the online community. The internet is a great way to share and view ideas and educate yourself. Facebook, in particular, is a very popular site. Why not post videos on a secured, private Facebook page for adults to view whilst their flicking through their timeline in the evening, or private message them, post on their wall reminding them to attend a meeting tomorrow. Alternatively, send them a text. Most adults (and adolescents) are glued to their phones 24/7. Hold meeting straight after schools or school events so that parents are already at school and don’t have the chance to run away. What I am trying to say is that there are ways to overcome parental disengagement.
However, one of the possibilities for the lack of parental support of the speech and language study was due to the stigma surrounding speech and language therapists. Many parents are under the assumption that speech and language therapists are only for children who have definite problems. However, in the case of this study the focus was on ALL preschool children. Not just those with problems. There are a lack of speech and language therapists in the UK which leads to them being in high demand, but, the results of this study show the importance of having speech and language therapists for ALL children. The results were incredibly positive. All the children in all the 4 preschools showed improved language ability by the end of the study after having weekly sessions in a group environment with the therapist. If we are serious about targeting speech and language problems from a young age then group speech and language sessions within preschool settings seems to be the way forward. Perhaps a consideration of how speech and language therapists are trained also needs to be taken into account. For example, they should be trained in dealing with children in groups situations as well as in different environments such as churches where the acoustics are different to everyday life, or outside or simply within a classroom setting.
It is evident that something needs to be done sooner rather than later in order to prevent more speech and language problems in the future. The question is however when will these changes take place and when will the Government listen to expert research that shows something extraordinary.