The ability to communicate is central to everything we do, who we are and how we interact with others. Teaching in school requires children to listen, understand and then respond verbally, before reading and writing even begin. This means that any problems in speech, language and other areas of communication can significantly affect a child’s ability to learn. Relationships in our lives depend on us being able to express how we feel and understand how some one else may be feeling. Difficulties in understanding and using language can therefore also have a negative impact on a child forming relationships, and can impact on behaviour as well as self-esteem.
It is now beginning to be recognised that children with emotional and behavioural difficulties often have underlying speech and language difficulties. Research has shown that between 60% and 90% of children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties have underlying speech and language needs that have never been diagnosed or addressed. In addition to this, many children from an unsettled family and educational background also miss out on developing the language skills they require to negotiate and interact appropriately with both peers and adults. They have no appropriate role models to follow.
However there is still limited information in the sector detailing the impact that speech and language difficulties can have on a child’s ability to learn and their potential to achieve, especially after leaving education.
It has been reported by John Bercow (MP):
“Nearly two-thirds of young offenders have speech and language impairment or communication needs…”
This is a generalised figure. Until a full assessment is done who knows how accurate this is? One thing is clear – communication difficulties can greatly affect the course of a person’s life.
Students presenting with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties would benefit from the following support in their school placement:
- An assessment of their speech and language skills, leading to the development of appropriate Speech and Language Therapy targets and programmes
- Teaching of basic vocabulary and particularly those words needed to describe emotions and feelings
- Discussion on problem solving and social skills in both group sessions and to individual students
- Staff training to enable teachers to recognize and understand the educational implications of speech and language difficulties, and equip them with the skills to maintain a programme of therapy
Improving communication skills cannot erase the difficult background, or horrific life changing events in students, but it can reduce the difficulties they have in learning and enable them to communicate their needs and feelings in a more effective manner.