The Afasic Helpline team have been rather disturbed to hear recently that a number of language units and bases around the country apparently have empty places. In Afasic’s experience, few mainstream schools are able to understand or meet the needs of children with severe speech and language difficulties and, ever since the charity was founded, we have campaigned hard for specialist resources to be set up for them. Some local authorities, I’m glad to say, do share our point of view. Only just this term, for example, a new secondary provision has opened in Croydon, in south London.
But clearly, in other parts of the country, the situation is very different. It’s not clear why. Are LAs just not telling parents about units? Or is nobody explaining to parents how disabling speech and language difficulties can be? Or is it a bit of both? One thing, though is clear. In these cash-strapped times, local authorities will not be willing to keep half empty units open indefinitely. In fact we have only just heard of proposals in one authority to close all their units. So the message to parents is obvious: Use your units or lose them!
Afasic Helpline : 31 July 2012 3:05 pm : Helpline Blog
Here’s an interesting question. On the Afasic helpline recently, I’ve asked a couple of parents, ‘Does your child understand what you’re saying?’, only for them to reply, ‘Oh yes, he’s not stupid!’ Well, of course that wasn’t what I meant. Afasic, after all, is primarily about specific speech and language impairments. Yet, there seems to be an almost instinctive tendency for people to associate comprehension and intelligence. Even the Equality Act guidance describes understanding language as a cognitive skill, while a speech difficulty is listed as a stand alone disorder. So why do we so frequently equate the two? I think it is probably because we depend so much on understanding language to learn, that any difficulty with the former will inevitably impact on the latter, especially once children start school and cannot rely on visual cues in the way they do at home.
So, finally, the Government has released its ‘Next Steps’ document announcing its future plans for SEN. Quite why it took so long I don’t know, as it mostly just confirms the Government’s intention to go ahead and implement the proposals in the Green Paper. One thing that appears to have gone, though, is the intention to replace the current statutory assessment process with something more independent. So, presumably, we’ll still be stuck with what happens now – professionals recommending only what they’re prepared to deliver, rather than any real attempt to provide what the child needs. This hardly seems an improvement.
Perhaps the most interesting proposal is to offer personal budgets to fund SEN support. How do you feel about this? Would you like to be given a sum of money to buy in speech and language therapy for your child, for example?
Afasic Helpline : 16 April 2012 12:26 pm : Helpline Blog
It’s now a year or so since the Government published its Green paper, and for the last few months the Afasic helpline has been waiting to hear about the proposed next steps. Originally we were led to believe something would be published around Christmas time, then February, then March, but now Easter has come and gone and still there’s nothing!
In the meantime, of course, we’re all thinking about the changes we hope to see, and if you’ve got any thoughts on this, do post a message. But with all the other changes currently being introduced to education and health services, it is hard to avoid the nagging doubts about how and where children with SEN will fit in.
Afasic Helpline : 2 March 2012 2:28 pm : Helpline Blog
In recent months, the Afasic helpline has heard from a number of parents who have been offered a place in a language unit for their child, or had a language unit suggested as a suitable placement, but would rather their child went to or stayed in mainstream.
It’s not so long ago that Afasic members, local groups and other parents were working hard to get language units set up across the country, and by and large, they provide a good model of support for children with severe speech and language impairments, offering the specialist support they need in a mainstream context.
It is possible, though not easy, for mainstream schools to provide an equivalent package of support and some do an excellent job, but many still do not. So why would parents prefer a mainstream school over purpose-designed provision? What have they got against language units?