The year 2012 was an important one in the area of speech and language and communication. The ‘Hello Campaign’ was set up by the ‘Communication Trust’ to raise awareness from the Bercow Review that more money needed to be allocated to Speech and Language in schools.
This is an important area for children in my school. Many of our children are without a voice and struggle to access the curriculum. Without a voice their world is incomplete. As a response to the review my school began working on an innovative approach to improving outcomes for children with SCLN. Funding for speech therapy was scant in our area in 2012. From within our own budget our HT prioritised funding and provided 2 private speech therapists for our children. This gave us a total of 4 at different times of the week. Each one is superb in their area and we feel that now, two years later, we have a solution for our children’s needs. We have assembled a ‘Communications Team’. The aim of the team is to provide Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices and support, plus speech and language therapy as a dual intervention. In this way all our children’s SLCN can be addressed in house. The two parts of the team work together and provide the best SLCN solution possible.
We have a communications Manager who pulls the whole team together. This lady knows what the entire team is doing at any given point. She is the link between speech therapists, AAC experts and the rest of the school staff. She is exceptional in her field and has been made a Trustee for the ‘Ace Centre North’. We then have our AAC Manager. This lady knows everything there is to know about AAC devices. She works with dynavox, Eyegase, Big Macs and other low and high tech devices. She attends Special Interest Groups and is highly regarded. These two are an unbeatable duo and have spoken at national conferences on SLCN.
We also have our AAC co ordinator who works with every class in school. She ensures classes have access to all the technology. She is in charge of specialist keyboards, switches, roller-balls and all other access technology. Each year she audits the equipment and re deploys it and accounts for how we spend our valued money. Within every class we have at least one Communication Champion. Their role is to implement the strategies recommended by SaLT and AAC in the class. They should ensure the equipment is set up each day and that everything is in place for all our children to access the curriculum. The speech therapists have their own list of children from each class that they work with according to their own special interests. The two teams compliment each other’s work and combine to make one unbeatable team and ensure equal access for all our children.
The impact of all these interventions is a joy to see. On a national level the team has delivered talks at conferences promoting our good practise and helping to spread their expertise for the good of more children. Locally we are the first school to have a Service Level Agreement with the Ace Centre. This means that all our staff can be trained in the use of AAC and we can loan specialist, brand new equipment for our children to trial. We are very proud of this agreement primarily because it means all our children have the technology they require. As a school we also support other schools who request our help with training. We have also compiled a useful list of apps that we make available for children with SLCN.
Lastly the team train all our school staff to differentiate the curriculum in every subject using technology to enable all our children to succeed. We send reports home to parents to show progress in the area of SLCN and AAC. In our school SaLT and AAC is as vital as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
So successful has our team been that our children feature in many publicity materials. My school is ‘the face’ of several campaigns to raise awareness of SLCN. We are very proud of all our children and the team for their achievements in this area. Our approach is a voice for every child and access to the curriculum via technology and speech and language for every child. We think our team has achieved this.