A child’s speech, language and communication skills are the building blocks for how they will learn in school, make friends and develop their reading and writing skills. The development of these skills starts from the moment a child is born.
For over 2 years, our Speech & Language Therapist Clare Kelliher, has been working with teachers and early years educators in the area in developing the speech, language and communication skills of all children in their schools and preschools; and to support the children in these settings who may have communication difficulties.
Each educational setting has received a combination of individualised mentoring for staff, training in oral language programmes, speech and language resources and whole class programmes such as ‘Languageland’. While each preschool and Junior National School also has one or more appointed ‘Communication Champions’. These people have a very important role in their settings in promoting amongst staff the importance of developing children’s communication skills and supporting children who may have difficulties.
‘’Communication skills should be at the heart of a school’s policy in order that every child can achieve their potential academically, socially, emotionally and in their future career’’. (The Communication Trust UK)
The work to date has lead to the process of developing a ‘Speech, Language and Communication Policy’ in the Junior National Schools and preschools working with the Blue Skies Initiative. This has involved working closely with our ‘Communication Champions’, preschool managers and school principals to create a lasting and sustainable document that will ensure that the great work so far will continue for years to come.
The policies have 4 main goals:
- To improve earlier identification of children with speech, language and communication needs.
- To increase awareness and knowledge of speech and language therapy services in the community and how to make appropriate referrals to these services.
- To increase teachers’ knowledge and confidence in supporting children with speech, language and communication difficulties in the classroom.
- To create a communication-friendly environment for children in the school in order to encourage the development of good communication skills in all children and create a more inclusive environment for those who struggle.
Each preschool and school is working hard to meet the goals of the Speech, Language and Communication Policy and the aim is to implement the policies by the end of 2017. The policy, for the most part, is capturing the fantastic work that schools and preschools are already doing in this area.
It is wonderful to see the value that each setting is placing on the speech and language development of children in Clondalkin. These are the skills that will give them the platform for success in their school life and beyond.