It probably already feels like you are overwhelmed with SLCN need in your school, so why would I emphasise looking for more?
What I am finding in the schools I work in, over and over, is that, as I start to work with children and talk to staff, more and more children start to be identified. Every time I think I am getting to the end of my list of children for assessment, more appear! Staff perceptions of what constitutes a Speech and Language issue, how SLCN presents, and what a Speech and Language Therapist can do for children varies widely, depending on their experience, access to training, and is often shaped by what local Speech and Language Therapy teams offer to your school.
As well as the obvious argument for making sure evrey child gets the support they need, there are lots of benefits to making sure we are robustly identifying children with SLCN from a staff and school perspective.
A really great identification process allows you to accurately describe the extent of the communication need in your school. Schools often have a sense that they have ‘a lot’ of SLCN, and I have no doubt this is true at pretty much every Primary school. But the ways that we support these children often feels piecemeal, with lots of individual programmes with different targets, often disconnected from classroom teaching.
A good description of your SLCN needs at class and whole school levels will allow:
- much more efficient implementation of interventions, allowing you to understand who has similar needs and might work well in a group.
- an opportunity to reflect on the developmental needs and differentiation needs of the class as a whole, instead of various children coming with lists of strategies from different professionals that are difficult to implement.
- a good handle on the relative severity of need, supporting decisions about prioritisation in various ways.
- a way to communicate with SLT and Governors about need
- a more realistic planning approach for working with teachers on their SLCN.
The answer to all this from my perspective is through a good quality screening process. Recently a school I work in used a screening tool on their mixed Year 1 and Year 2 class. It was evident that this class needed a lot of support, and many things had already been put in place to facilitate learning.
But the screening process identified that the majority of the students are functioning at the 3 ½ year to 4 ½ year stage of language development. This was a very powerful piece of data and lets me as a Speech Therapist communicate really well with teaching staff about their class, and support them to deliver teaching effectively to the class as a whole. It also will support us to communicate with SLT and Governors about need and advocate for resources. I also hope that it helps teaching staff to feel validated – the reason it has felt tough to make progress in delivering a Year 1 and 2 curriculum to this class is because they are not functioning at the language level that will allow them to access it without significant differentiation.
Screening is at the very start of your great SLCN system in your school. I have more blogs on this topic, take a look around!
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