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Investigating Children's Communication Difficulties

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Researchers at the University of the West of England are taking part in a study funded by the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) to investigate best practice in service provision and support to help children with speech language and communication difficulties.

The three year £1.5 million project, 'Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) cost effectiveness research programme' is a collaboration between The Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at Warwick University, the Institute of Education at the University of London, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, LSE and UWE. Lead by the CEDAR, the project stems from the Bercow Review of provision for children and young people with SLCN published in July 2008.

The government subsequently published its response Better Communication, the SLCN action plan in December 2008, which committed to a series of initiatives to improve services for children and young people with SLCN culminating in the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication in 2011.

Professor Geoff Lindsay, the Project Manager from CEDAR said, “This is a very exciting, complex research programme and the whole team are delighted to have this opportunity to undertake research that will inform policy in this important area. We shall be developing links with other researchers and stakeholders including the Communication Trust, I CAN, Afasic, local authorities and primary care trusts (in particular speech and language therapy services), as well as engaging with parents and young people with SLCN themselves. We shall publish annual reports of the whole programme and specific research reports over the three years.”

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The project team at UWE will be led by Professor Sue Roulstone who is also Director of the Speech and Language Therapy Research Unit based at Frenchay Hospital.

She explains, “Here at UWE, we will be leading the stakeholder engagement part of the study. We will be finding out about the views of families and children. We want to find out what they would like to achieve and what they want to see happen to help with the progress of children with SLCN.

“Children needing support fall into two broad categories. On the one hand there are children who for one reason or another find it difficult to learn to talk - they may find it hard to learn new vocabulary or to put words into sentences or to understand questions and directions. If children are going to have difficulties of this kind they usually experience this during Pre School and primary years.

“Other children might experience communication difficulties that are associated with other conditions such as autism or learning difficulties.

“Investigating the right way of meeting the needs of these children is imperative as early or ongoing communication problems can lead to education problems and potentially to serious social isolation.

“This project is especially exciting as it will develop as we discover more about the needs and thoughts of the key stakeholders. The results coming out of the first year of the study will inform its progress. I will be working with a small team here at UWE comprising Dr Jane Coad, an expert in researching children's perspectives and Dr Yvonne Wren, who is a specialist speech and language therapist in delivering interventions in educational contexts."