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“Good communication only exists as part of positive everyday relationships, boosting self-esteem and success. Without good communication individuals struggle to learn, achieve, make friends and interact – all fundamental for citizenship and humanity and central to improving quality of life”
Bercow J. (2008) Review of Services for Children and Young People (0‐19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Speech and Language Therapist
My undergraduate studies in Linguistics together with early experiences of trying to communicate with a grandfather who had suffered a severe stroke, initially inspired me to train as a Speech and Language Therapist.
I qualified from City University, London in 2001 and since then, I have worked with adults and children in various NHS and education settings with a range of communication difficulties including, speech and language difficulties following stroke, voice disorders, delayed and disordered speech and language in children in mainstream and special schools.
Prior to joining the team at Highshore in 2013, I worked in a Specialist Unit for Children with ASC, providing an outreach service to mainstream primary schools in West Kent and working with Consultant Community Paediatricians in an Autism Diagnostic Clinic in Tunbridge Wells.
Speech and Language Therapist
I studied Speech and Language Therapy at City, University of London and I graduated in 2017. I have previous voluntary work experience in numerous mainstream schools as well as an SEN school, all in north London. My final University placement was here at Highshore; I learnt so much and loved the placement that I couldn’t help but want to come back.
I became interested in Speech and Language Therapy because my older sister has Down’s Syndrome and growing up I saw first-hand the difference between receiving no support and the impact Speech and Language Therapy had on her ability to communicate. When we were younger often people would find it difficult to understand or communicate with her and I would find myself having to interpret. Due to this, I have always wanted to work with children who have Special Educational Needs and I would like to play a role in making that impact and provide that level of support to other families.
These groups focus on supporting students to understand and use story grammar to tell verbal narratives and stories. Story telling aims to help children to recognise and internalise the key components of story grammar through role play and multi-sensory approaches. Within these groups we support the students’ development across different aspects of communication, including attention and listening, social interaction within a group, understanding of sequences, development of vocabulary and their expression of the story.
Colourful Semantics uses coloured visual prompt cards to ‘show’ the structure of a sentence so that the structure of a sentence (syntax) is linked with its meaning (semantics). It mainly supports the development of sentence structures but it has also been expanded to develop vocabulary, spoken and written language and understanding and development of structures for creating narratives.
This group supports the development of the students’ communication and self-awareness within an age-appropriate social club setting. We support their communication by using symbols and Makaton signing, modelling language and facilitating good social interactions (e.g. sharing, asking questions, requesting) within games, snack and chill out time. We mainly support the students’ self-awareness through the popular activity of the ‘catwalk’.
These groups support the students’ awareness of the sounds that make up words, which helps to develop speech and Literacy. Activities may include clapping out the syllables in words, identifying the sounds in words (e.g. the first sound), identifying rhyming words and blending sounds to produce words and nonwords.
There are a few students at Highshore School who use a High Tech device (e.g. an Ipad) or a Low Tech device (e.g. a communication book, symbols) to help them to communicate with others. We support these students to use these devices to communicate as effectively as they can in class. We may run groups or one-to-one sessions to give them a little more support to develop a newer skill related to using these devices.
Play is an extremely important for general development and the development of language. Here we provide opportunities for students to play with their choice of toys. We will follow their lead and respond to their initiations. We model language onto what they are doing according to their language level.
Every Friday lunch time students join us in the Drama Studio for sing and sign. This involves using Makaton to sign along to their favourite pop songs.
Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people communicate. The signs and symbols can be used either as a main method of communication or as a way to support verbal communication and the development of language. It supports the students’ understanding of language as well as their expression of language. http://www.makaton.org
Most of the words we express carry meaning. Most of our students find it more difficult to understand longer sentences, containing more words and ideas, than shorter more manageable chunks. This training looked at how we can reduce the number of words we say to students to support their understanding.
Along with supporting students to communicate using their AAC devices, we advise staff about how to support students with using their devices to communicate. This is through regular liaison with staff and may include some joint sessions.
If you would like some ideas of what you can do at home to support your child’s communication, please follow the links below to get some useful information and speech and language resources:
Understanding Speech, language and Communication Needs
Local social clubs for young people with SLCN:
This diagram provides an overview of a pupil’s levels in 11 areas of communication and interaction, clearly showing us areas of strength (towards the centre of the diagram) and areas of relative need (towards the outside of the diagram). This overview of a pupil’s communication profile shows the pupil, their family/carers and professionals working with and supporting the pupil the key areas for development, helping them jointly set targets to focus on these.
Each diagram records data for two consecutive years, clearly showing where the pupils have made progress with their speech, language and communication skills. The Speech and Language Therapy service provide a report detailing the outcomes of the assessment and highlighting the key areas for development, making recommendations on strategies/systems that have been agreed will best support these.
(Standard 1, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Five good communication standards. London: RCSLT, 2013).
Talking Mats is a communication symbols tool that supports a wide range of people with communication difficulties, including people with learning difficulties. It supports the development of positive, supportive relationships by providing the person with communication difficulties a framework to express their views on a range of topics that are important to them, such as the support and services they feel they require.
At Highshore school we strive to include the pupils as fully as possible in the assessment and target setting process so that they have a voice to express their thoughts and opinions on the skills they would like to develop and the services and support they feel are needed in order to achieve maintain and develop their sense of health and well-being.
(Standard 2 & 5, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Five good communication standards. London: RCSLT, 2013).
Tony Caldwell, Senior Speech and Language Therapist at Highshore School and Stephanie Cousins, Specialist Teacher at Highshore School, are trained ELKLAN Tutors who can jointly deliver comprehensive, accredited training to education and care settings as well as parents and carers of children and young people with communication difficulties, on a wide range of the ELKLAN Training Packages.
The Speech, Language and Communication Support for Pupils with Severe Learning Difficulties course forms part of the training programme for the staff at Highshore school, ensuring that all staff have specialist knowledge and skills to support the development of the communication skills of each individual they work with.
(Standard 3 & 4, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Five good communication standards. London: RCSLT, 2013).
Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order. This helps provide extra clues about what someone is saying. Using signs can help people who have no speech or whose speech is unclear. Using symbols can help people who have limited speech and those who cannot, or prefer not to sign