Speech and Language development – A reflection on my practice   10 comments

This week I attended a meeting where there was a consultation  from the NHS Speech and Language team. They wanted feedback on some recording forms and some information packs that they might send out to settings to provide support to children. There were even some  filled in fictitious examples for us to look at and comment on.

There was a range of early years practitioners in the room – all of whom were from group settings (apart from me of course)

Discussions were around training attended in the past, support received in the past, phonics systems used, number of children with speech and language difficulties.

I admit to saying very little during the discussions but was listening with interest to my colleagues, as I know that speech and language difficulties / delay are on the increase and indeed in many areas (including the one I live in ) the % of children  with these developmental concerns is worrying.

Colleagues were asking lots of questions about support available – and how it all fits in with the new SEND code of practice – as they should because they need the information to support the children in their care.

I was then asked a direct question about my thoughts on the example documents – and it was this that has prompted my reflection and therefore this blog.

My response was –  ‘In over 30 years of childcare practice, I have never had to ask for support with speech and language – and all the children in my care have had excellent speech and language skills’.

There was a ‘wow’ and a ‘Really’ and a bit of a shocked silence (only seconds) – and then there was a bit of a conversation;

I then said – 2 years ago  – under a continuity of care  exception I was caring for 5 children –  2 of whom were bilingual (and not even the same home language) and all are now at school and have excellent language skills

Questions were then asked;

Did I carefully select the children I took on? –  the answer is no

Do children come to me with speech and language concerns? – the answer is sometimes, although they often start my setting as non verbal babies

I mentioned that maybe to do with home based setting – so not huge rooms, or low ratios

Then one colleague said ‘Well that is an excellent recommendation for benefits of childminding’

So over the days since that meeting, I have been thinking – or as we call it in professional terms – reflecting.

Why (so far) have all the children in my care developed excellent receptive and expressive language?

Is it because my setting is quite small (a family home) and that we don’t have high ceilings and echoing rooms?

Is it because we have carpets and soft furnishings the help with absorption of noise?

Is it because usually I don’t have TV or radio or music on? (and if I do only for short periods of times)?

Is it because of low numbers of children and so less volume of talking, crying and so on?

Is it because of low ratio’s – usually only 3 children here – and even if have exception in place the maximum would be 6 children to one adult, so more opportunity to listen, to communicate with each child?

Is it because of low ratio’s that children get more opportunity to talk with peers  / adults in games, in conversation, in  real life situations. (I can’t help thinking that having to wait your turn to speak when 10, 20 or more other children need a turn to speak, is going to make it more difficult to develop language skills)

Is it because children only have one key worker (me) for their whole time in my setting – day in, day out – so develop really positive relationships built on shared knowledge and understanding?

Is it because every day the children’s parents come into the setting and talk to me – and in their children’s presence, making talking a central aspect of setting ethos.

Is it because we go out in the community and speak to others – such as colleagues, neighbours, shop assistants and so on, and doing ‘everyday things’ – like posting letters, going to the supermarket and the garden centre?

Is it because I can tailor the environment / curriculum to each individual child – and therefore they have sustained interest in the opportunities offered – and so talk about them more?

Is it because we sing and tell stories whenever we can, and wherever we can ?

Is it because the children lead their own learning and so are not having to do things that they are not interested in, and can do the same sort of thing for months at a time – if they want to?

Is it because the children sense my interest in them and what they are doing – (they don’t know I am a advocate for the child and actively engage in listening to  the voice of the child) – but do they sense (so know) that I am listening to them, really listening – and not just to their verbal communication?

Is it because ……………..

…………………………….. well, is it because we use language all the time ?

 

A few things are certain though ….

It is not because I use a phonics system – oh yes I have ‘things’ that support phonics which I use as and when the children are ready to use them, but I don’t have a brought in phonics system

It is not because I am a graduate – yes I am currently undertaking my degree – but not to set out to  improve my practice or my understanding, (or to climb the career ladder), I am doing it because I want proof that I know what I am on about – in other words I feel that without a bit of paper that says I have a degree – no one in Government will think I am ‘qualified’ . Of course I will learn a few things / fine tune a few things as a result of getting my degree  – but I am not going suddenly know a lot more than I already know from my years of experience.

So why is it that to date – I have never had to ask for support with speech and language?

So why is it that to date 100% of the children in my care have gone on to school with excellent receptive and expressive language?

I would love to be able to do some ‘proper’ research on this, to find out – if it is just me,  just the children who been in my care – or do registered childminders in general provide the ‘right’ environment and opportunities for language development?

I would love the Government to ask a few more questions when gathering data for end of early years foundation stage profile about the settings that children attend before starting school reception, and to do some research of their own about the outcomes of children who attend registered childminder settings – and for that matter who are cared for in their own homes by parents, grandparents or daily / live in Nannies.

Not just language development but all areas. I think there maybe a few surprises that could be uncovered.

Of course the picture will not be clear and the data will need further unpicking – for example children often attend more than one setting before starting reception, or a number of settings within the same day – but I think a start should be made in trying to establish if children who attend a childminder setting do well in particulars areas or not.

 

And as I am really interested in finding out more – I have had a go at setting up my first ever survey – I hope it works and I hope readers will respond.

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q939JMD

Posted October 17, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

10 responses to “Speech and Language development – A reflection on my practice

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  1. Hi Penny – I have been following your blog for a while from here in America. When my sons were young and we educated them at home we took in babies one at a time. None of them had developmental issues, least of all speech and language! I think continuity of care makes a huge difference and the natural nature of the children’s days. You are on to something. I couldn’t answer your survey since I can’t answer the first question honestly at this stage. I look forward to reading the results. I shared your post on my FB page. Good luck and keep up the great work!

    • Thank you Helen

      And thank you for your honesty in not completing the survey. I do want to include parents views as well and tried to do so within this blog – but I was making things far too complicated for my first attempt at a survey – therefore I will set up another survey for parents, as soon as time allows.

      And thank you for sharing my post.

  2. I am an ex registered child minder, a parent and still work within early years, tutoring and assessing, I did have lots of children come to me with S&L problems, I think because I could offer support having a child of my own with quite severe problems herself. I don’t think being a child minder its-self means children don’t have problems, I believe the support is best placed in small homely settings but often problems begin at home due to lack of attention, as well as specific learning difficulties which are often not diagnosed either accurately or early enough. I would say you have been fortunate not to experience S&L problems, even from young ages, but I definitely agree small home based settings are best placed for offering the support and care for children. I too cannot answer your survey as I don’t have a category on there.

    • Thank you for your comment Rachel

      And I totally agree that being a childminder in itself does not mean children don’t have problems – of course some do.

      I said that I had not had to ask for support from speech and Language services – which is a bit different from saying that I have never had a child with S & L difficulties – some have – reasons being varied – and as you suggest some times issues are related to their home life – such as not talking to child enough, not enough stories and singing, parents always busy – or stressed and so not focussed on the child, over use of dummy or bottle and so on.

      I have cared for a couple of children who chose not to speak, children on the Autistic spectrum and as mentioned in my blog bilingual children.

      I think that maybe I did not explain very well, what I am trying to find out is why I have not needed the support of S&L services, and what it is about what I provide as a registered childminder in a home base setting that means children make progress and overcome any difficulties / delay that they may have presented with when the started at my setting.

      And I do think – as you have said that the small home based setting does have some advantages over larger settings. Of course the question is – what are those advantages – hence my questions.

      I totally agree with you that children are often not identified or diagnosed early enough – and in that I can think of several other questions that need asking around the ‘why’ of this.

      Point taken about you not being able to complete my survey – maybe the one I have planned for parents could be extended to include tutors / assessors / other professionals?

  3. I personally feel that the popularity of smart phones and social media are largely to blame for the reduction of speech and language skills. Take a look around any town centre, playgroup, public transport and how many adults are absorbed in something on their phone whilst the child is bring ‘kept busy’ with something else, far too often has a biscuit stuff in their mouth. In nursery setting staff have other adults to talk too, but for many childminders they only have the kids to talk to so we do. The only mindee of mine that has speech and language development delay is one that has a hearing impairment, the rest are total chatterboxes. Just my observations but would be interested to see if others have noticed the same thing.

  4. I filled out your survey but found it very frustrating as only numbers were allowed as answers and no text comments – in future surveys please leave the option for text – if nothing else, perhaps just a space for ‘any further comments’ at the end.
    So I did put numbers as answers and when asked how many I am concerned about I put 0 – but if asked how many I’m 100% sure are fine then again I would put 0, because it’s hard to tell.
    My own kids were late talkers – and I think communication and language is yet another area where we expect ‘too much too soon’ – one of my mindees had her 2-year check and the HV told the mum she should be speaking in sentences – I wonder where she got that from? Do they have different criteria than we have in the EYFS?
    I’m not sure speech problems are on the rise or are over-diagnosed – a child may be perhaps developing slowly and be reluctant to communicate outside the home, or simply unwilling to participate in the adult-led activity designed to test or develop their communication skills – and hey presto! they are referred for speech assessment, adding anxiety for parents. Obviously, some children may have genuine difficulties and early support makes a difference for them.
    I think a lot of the early support is really just putting common sense into practice – such as getting down to the child’s level, obtaining their attention, maintaining eye contact when communicating, modeling the use of language, scaffolding the child’s language etc. So I guess with a lot of early referrals it’s as much about assessing the children as it is about assessing the carers – the children who are OK, just developing slowly, as well as those who have communication difficulties as a result of sub-optimal conditions, don’t actually need to work with a speech therapist and their needs can be met by regular carers. I imagine one of the reasons why you Penny never had a child with communication difficulties is that as a carer you met the needs of the children who might have been at risk otherwise. As some carers are unsure how to meet those needs, they may benefit from support from speech therapists – and this may apply to group settings with unqualified or minimally qualified staff, as well as unqualified/inexperienced home based carers.
    And then there are children who have communication difficulties because of some neurological problems or other medical reasons (perhaps yet undiagnosed) and even the best carers cannot meet their needs without professional input from speech therapists (and even with that input the child may struggle) – and I think that you Penny just never had one of these children in your setting as they are a minority – perhaps group settings are more likely to have them – based simply on statistical probabilities: if 1 in a 100 children has a particular problem, then a setting with 100 children is more likely to have such a child than a setting with 10 children 🙂
    I’m looking forward to the results of your survey

    • Thank you very much for your detailed reply.

      Your comments about the survey are very valid, and useful as I have a lot to learn about surveys. I found setting this one up difficult, one because of my lack of experience, and two because as I quickly found out the options for the free survey design are very limited.
      I am glad that you have taken the tome to post your comments here.
      It is because of the limit of this survey, that I have chosen to only use it within my blog, rather than using social media in general for a wider response.
      I agree with your thoughts around reason why I have not had any major concerns, especially the bit about using common sense – and certainly I think I have always done that. I lot of early intervention work, would know come under ‘ordinarily available’ and so settings should be able to support the child themselves in partnership with parents.
      Ialso agree with you about lack of confidence, and think some of this is done to pressure to assess everything in detail, and so practitioners are looking for progress all the time, not seeing it and so expressing concerns, when as you rightly say – children are not ready rather than unable.

      Your comments about numbers of children in setting ate also valid, and this should show up in the survey. However, although I do only provide care for low numbers at any one time, over my career I have had nearly 300 children in total in my care.

      I will be following this first attempt at a survey, with a second one, to try and unlock the results a bit more.
      Thank you again for your comments.

      Finally you comment about HV 2 year check is also interesting and fits in with a mini paper based survey that I have done, the result of which I have yet to share.

  5. Oh and I forgot to add that I believe if a child is presenting with below-average communication skills then they should have their hearing tested – too much reliance is on the newborn hearing screening, when children may be suffering from transient hearing impairment because of ear infections, glue ear, etc.

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