Delays for children with communication needs

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The number of children with communication difficulties has soared over the last six years, but parents are still experiencing two- year delays in getting support for their children, according to a new report.

The numbers of youngsters with speech, learning and communication needs (SLCN) rose by 75 per cent from 2005 to 2011, the Department for Education’s Better Communication Research Programme (BCRP) report said.

But many of these children missed out on support during their “golden window” before the age of five when intervention is crucial, with parents experiencing delays between noticing a difficulty and getting support.

In schools, only half the teachers observed used specific strategies to support children’s language and literacy needs, and children with SLCN received three times less teaching assistant support compared with other children with special educational needs.

The report emphasised the critical link between early language skills and later school success, yet in many primary classes there was limited use of approaches to help develop children’s language.

Virginia Beardshaw, chief executive of children’s communication charity I Can, said: “We know there is a ‘golden window’ between 0 and five where help and early interventions can make a material difference to a child’s language. Early years settings and schools can put programmes and interventions in place so that children do not slip through the net.”