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Speech and Language in the Classroom

The Blog

Friday, 30 June 2017

Language Link is changing... Part 1: Reporting

Data and evidence… it’s everywhere! Not the most exciting of topics for some people but one that we hear in school every day and one that can result in a great sense of relief or a deep sense of panic! 

Of course, we all know the importance of accurate and robust data both for tracking progress and identifying and addressing additional learning needs. That’s why schools across the country are busy developing their systems to make sure that they are collecting as much information as they can in a meaningful and useful way.

So, here’s the good news! The Language Link website has always provided instant, individual and class reports once children have finished the online screening. With no need for additional input, the data is there at your fingertips!

From September 2017, refined and brand new reports will be available for Year Groups, Key Stages and the whole school. At the click of a button and whether you are a teacher, Head of Key Stage, SENCo or school leader, you will be able to see at a glance how many children have been screened, how many are experiencing moderate or severe difficulties with language and how many are accessing additional support.

What’s more, for the first time ever, you will be able to view a child’s journey from Reception through to Year 6 in a single report, including any Speech Link and Language Link data or intervention alongside that provided by Infant and Junior Language Link.


Want to know more about how we have improved the data and reports that the Speech Link and Language Link packages can provide your school? Visit www.speechlink.info or give the Help Desk a call on 0333 577 0784

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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Top Transition Words to Teach Your Children Going into KS3 - By Vicki Lyden

Approximate reading time: 4 mins, 30 secs.

Transition Words KS3
As the summer holidays grow steadily closer, there is one thing in the minds of many children - their imminent transition to secondary school. A new school, new lessons, surrounded by new people; for any child, not least those with any kind of speech or language delay, this can be a difficult time. So how can we best help them to prepare?

One way which we are championing is to provide the children with exposure to vocabulary which they will likely encounter as they enter Year 7; arming them with confidence and helping them to start off on the right foot. This is also a great opportunity to spark conversation with your Year 6 children about their expectations, hopes and concerns for secondary school.

Let’s have a look at some key areas which you could discuss to introduce new vocab and prepare students for their big move…

1. The new environment:

I remember my first day at secondary school. Sitting on the dusty hall floor, I was bewildered as the announcement came that we were being sorted into ‘forms’. Having not the first clue what this meant, or what I would be expected to do as part of this ‘form’, understandably I felt rather panicked! As if the first day in a new place isn’t scary enough, children really don’t need the addition of new terminology which leaves them confused or anxious; feeling prepared will make the experience a much smoother one. This is where exposure to key words about the new school environment is essential. I mean, who necessarily knows that a tutor is exactly the person that I would have called a ‘teacher’? How should I know that being awarded a merit is a good thing and isn’t tantamount to a telling off? Or that I am not only in a form, but also a house (which is different again), and that chunks of my day will now be called periods? If you can, having the child’s specific school in mind may mean that you are able to tailor the vocabulary, and depending on the child’s likely interests or needs you might want to look at other ideas such as student support, cashless catering or the school principle.
Transition Environment
2. Organisation and management:

We all know that, when it comes to managing the change in work load and lesson structure, organisation is absolutely key in keeping on top of things. Unsurprisingly, so is effective understanding of the expectations placed upon you, and a confidence in knowing how to approach or access tasks. Words such as deadline will be key here, because a child can’t possibly be expected to do what is required of them unless they fully understand the task and the timescale. Other vocabulary which may be completely new to your children are things like homework diary, moodle and portal.

3. The school commute:

Many children will be facing not only the prospect of a new school, but also a new journey to school which could well be undertaken independently. Timetable, pass, ticket, ticket inspector, valid; these are all handy words for the school commuter’s armory. Alongside this, arm them with etiquette and handy tips, such as scooting over to allow someone else to sit next to you when the bus gets busy, or how to decide on a place to ring the bell every day in order to make sure you get the right stop while giving the driver enough warning.
Organisation and Management
4. Lessons and equipment:

Acronyms in secondary school are very common place and are areas where confusion can really manifest. It’s worth having a little look over the common ones, such as:

MFL = Modern Foreign Languages
DT = Design Technology
FT = Food Technology
RS = Religious Studies

As if the acronyms weren’t enough, the new terms don’t end there! Humanities, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Studies - these are all potentially new words which leave the child none the wiser as to the lesson content. And where did teacher say the lesson was? The Learning Resource Centre? C Block? Or perhaps the Science Lab
Even when we get our heads around what and where our lessons are, the sheer volume of new equipment and terminology can be overwhelming. This is a vast, vast area and so you will want to pick the really relevant words for your children, but some examples might be: Bunsen burner, tripod, test tube, protractor or compass.

We would love to hear from you...

Get in touch and let us know what your thoughts are on vocabulary for transitioning Year 6s. We would love to edit this blog with all your input to share knowledge across our network of Teachers, TAs, SENCos and Senior Leaders. And remember, this approach can be applied in every year if you feel your children would benefit from some transitional preparation, it doesn’t just have to be your Year 6 class.

From all of us here at Speech Link, the best of luck to all your Year 6s… may their secondary school adventures be wonderful ones!
Back to school


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Friday, 23 June 2017

An interview with... Katherine Buckeridge, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist


Approximate reading time: 4 mins, 30 secs.



1. What collaborative strategies between the parents and the school would you recommend, or in your experience, have been particularly beneficial to the child?


The first few months following a child’s return to school following ABI can be particularly challenging. Teachers and peers expect them to behave as they did before and it is common for the children themselves to have poor insight into their difficulties. They will need support to cope with the school environment in addition to possible extra help in the classroom. Our team at Chailey Clinical Services invites representatives from a child’s school to a discharge planning meeting toward the end of their rehabilitation period with us. This provides a supportive forum for the parents, child, Head Teacher, SENCo, and community therapists to plan with us for the transition. After a few weeks, we organise a follow-up meeting at the school to review how the child and the school team are coping. Allocating a key person in the school who is responsible for implementing recommendations and meeting regularly with the parents and child is important to ensuring a smooth return. It is important to recognise that parents have seen their child survive an incredibly traumatic event but are now faced with changes to their child’s cognitive and physical abilities. With agreement of the parents it can be helpful for children to maintain contact with their friends from school during the rehabilitation period. Sharing information with other children in the school, again with parents’ agreement can help them understand how the child might be different to the one they knew previously. One young girl helped me prepare a PowerPoint presentation, which we delivered to teaching staff to explain how her stroke had affected her skills and what she needed particular help with. This was a powerful way of exchanging information and an empowering process for her.



2. Commonly will the ‘fatigue’ that children experience following ABI lessen and processing time become less? How can the staff and other children support this during the school day especially during busy periods; break, the lunch hall, PE, etc?


The fatigue that children experience following ABI can stay with them for many years but as suggested may decrease over time as the child’s brain learns to adapt. It is important to ensure that information about a child’s ABI is passed on from one teacher to the next, so that the potential impact of this remains highlighted. A child with ABI is usually having to work much harder than a typically developing child on the same task and this can be exhausting. Initially we recommend that a child returns to school part time, this might be for a certain number of days per week or mornings only and build up gradually to full time attendance. We suggest that children who struggle with fatigue during the day have scheduled rest breaks or a way of letting their teacher know that they need a time-out. Schools have usually been able to provide a quiet place where a child can rest or have lunch with a friend. If a school is particularly large and busy then a child could be allowed to leave the lesson five minutes early to avoid the rush in corridor. For some children contact sports are not recommended for a year after a brain injury but they may be able to take part in other activities. Check with a child’s consultant or physiotherapist and if necessary make alternative arrangements for PE lessons. 

3. In your opinion if a school could put in place just one strategy for the child with ABI what would it be?


Each child with ABI tends to have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses so we would tailor strategies to the individual child based on our assessments and what we have found works in therapy sessions during the rehabilitation process. From a Speech and Language Therapy point of view the one area I find myself talking about most often is word finding difficulties. A ‘word finding difficulty’ is when a child knows and understands a particular word but has difficulty retrieving it and using it in their speech or written work. Children I have worked with often use words that are similar to the ones they want but not the exact ones and this can be very frustrating for them. Often this difficulty can be very subtle to observers but it can significantly affect how a child feels they are perceived by others and they describe their thoughts as being ‘locked inside their heads’. One of the participants in my research study was worried that teachers didn’t think she was bright enough because she would stumble over saying words in the classroom. Meeting new people, stress (exams) and fatigue can make the word finding problem worse and it can continue many years after the ABI. Make sure you give a child enough time to give their answer your question without putting them under pressure. They may also need extra time for written work, as word finding difficulties affecting that can be overlooked. If you have any language groups at school, working on vocabulary skills then a child may benefit from taking part in these or specific work with a TA. Ideally ask a speech and language therapist approach is recommended for a particular child with ABI.


4. Do you have any transition tips for schools to support children leaving primary school for secondary?


Ensure that the secondary school is armed with knowledge about a child’s ABI and any difficulties they continue to experience. If the ABI happened in early childhood then this information can become dissipated and teenagers are not keen to highlight why that they are different to their peers. As well as the usual familiarisation days offered by secondary schools, it there are other professionals involved with a child, a meeting with the child’s form tutor, pastoral support team and SENCo will help to plan a smooth transition. Specific work with a child before they leave primary school to help them with more complex planning skills for example; organising homework tasks, reading a timetable or moving between lots of different classes would help prepare them. Children with ABI are often well supported in primary schools by teachers and assistants who know them really well but once they move to a larger secondary school their needs can go unmet. This is when they are in danger of problems with behaviour, as they fail to keep up with the pace of teaching and demands of the curriculum. It may not be until adolescence when more complex aspects of executive and language skills are developing that the full effects of ABI become apparent, so this needs highlighting for the secondary school. We often see children referred to our therapy led ABI clinic at secondary school age because they are failing to cope with the increased challenges of the secondary school environment. Once funding has been agreed, we will then reassess a child and provide recommendations and support to the child, family and school. http://www.sussexcommunity.nhs.uk/services/servicedetails.htm?directoryID=16344


5. What in particular prompted your interest in specialising in ABI in children?


My first post as a community Speech and Language Therapist involved working in a number of mainstream and special schools. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work regularly with a caseload of children with learning disabilities and wanted to specialise in complex neuro-disability, so applied for a post at Chailey Clinical Services (Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust). When training to be a Speech and Language Therapist on placement, I worked with a teenager who had been knocked over by a car. His communication skills were quite unique and we had to do some very lateral thinking. When the opportunity arose to work at our on-site Children’s Rehabilitation Service, I jumped at the chance. Working in the field of ABI is fascinating as each child is unique. Two children might have the same type of brain injury but present with a completely different set of impairments. Every day there is something new to learn in supporting a child and their family through rehabilitation. I love working as part of a multi-disciplinary team and opportunities to problem solve with therapists from other disciplines. Of course, it is rewarding to work directly with children who make significant improvements in their speech and language skills during the time they spend with us and make a successful transition back to school. For children with more severe brain injuries, the needs of the child and the family are very different but helping them through the initial period of recovery and adaption can be both fulfilling and humbling.



Read more about ABI in Katherine Buckeridge's article in The Link, Issue 8.

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Friday, 2 June 2017

SLCN Glossary 4, by Heather Stevens, SaLT

Approximate reading time: Under 1 minute, 30 secs.
SLCN Glossary - Vocabulary Skills and Semantic Skills

Vocabulary Skills and Semantic Skills

We are all familiar with the term vocabulary and know that this refers to the words at our disposal. It is important to remember that this not only describes the words that we are able to use when talking and writing but also to the words that we understand. You might be familiar with the terms expressive vocabulary… the words that we use, and receptive vocabulary… the words that we understand. As a child’s language develops, so their vocabulary grows but they are able to understand many more words than they use in their own speech. This remains the case throughout our lives and even as adults our receptive vocabulary is bigger than our expressive vocabulary. We are able to understand many words that we have heard or read but may never have any reason to use ourselves. 

Teachers are under considerable pressure to ensure that they teach children the words necessary to access curriculum topics. As speech and language therapists we are often asked how to support children with language difficulties to learn and retain new vocabulary.

In order to learn new words we need to fully understand them and be able to store them efficiently.  Semantics is the study of word meanings. When we talk about 'semantic skills' we are referring to the ability to attribute meaning to words. In order to do this we need to make links and associations between new words and words that we already have in our vocabulary store. Making these semantic links allows us to fully appreciate the meaning of words and to store them so that we can find them again when we need them.

Stephen Parsons and Anna Branagan who have written an article for this issue of the Link are the authors of Word Aware. Their books are full of activities that teachers can use to encourage children to make semantic links. They also advise on how to select the vocabulary to teach and techniques for teaching it. 

Free Resource - Schools - Semantic Dominoes

Download this FREE Resource for your class.
Read more from the SLCN Glossary.

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