Jo had always felt that her 10 year old daughter Holly (not her real name) had significant difficulties but found it hard to pinpoint what was wrong. This made it very difficult to get anyone else to take her concerns seriously. Holly had some intermittent speech and language therapy when she was younger but it stopped when she was eight. The school were insisting that Holly was fine, but Jo was worried that her learning still lagged behind and her behaviour could be a concern. Fortunately at this point, Jo rang the Afasic Parents’ Helpline.
Unlike some other helplines we do not simply give a straightforward answer to what might appear to be a straightforward question, but always try to dig a bit deeper to make sure we have a full picture of the child before suggesting possible ways forward. We know, for example, that children are often good at ‘masking’ difficulties with understanding language. So if a parent reports that her child ‘understands everything’, we don’t just take this as read, but ask supplementary questions to check whether the parent might have missed something important. In some cases, we spend half an hour or more on the phone with parents, trying to get a handle on their child’s difficulties, before they suddenly mention something, often in passing, that gives us a vital clue for further investigation. This might not even be something obviously related to speech or language but could for instance be a comment like, ‘She won’t eat lumpy food’ or ‘If other children come round, they have to sit in his room watching him play games on the computer’.
In Jo’s case, we spent some time talking to her in order to get a better understanding of Holly’s problems both at school and at home. It quickly became clear that she still had some persisting language difficulties which, in all probability, underlay everything else. So we advised Jo to request an up-to-date speech and language therapy assessment and talk to Holly’s school about providing appropriate support. However, as the school did not appear to have identified Holly’s language difficulties, and the speech and language therapy service had previously discharged her, it was likely that Jo would have to explain in some detail why she felt there was a problem. This meant being able to describe what Holly could and could not say or understand. So we advised Jo to make a list of some of things we had discussed and any other relevant examples ready for when she next met the school or speech and language therapist.
A short time later Jo sent the following feedback to us:
I didn’t know what to expect (from the Helpline) – your advice was much more than I anticipated! I have gone back to the drawing board and with your advice can tackle the issues in hand with the knowledge I will be able to support my child. I cannot thank you enough – so many children continue to slip through the educational net. Hopefully with your advice I can ensure my daughter isn’t another failed statistic. (After) 6 years of being made to feel like a neurotic mother…Thank you
The Helpline lies at the heart of Afasic’s support for parents. Our personal experience and knowledge of speech and language impairments and SEN law enables us to provide the independent and personalised guidance that you need. So, if you’ve been told that, for example, speech and language therapy will stop when your child starts school and (s)he will ‘catch up in his or her own time’ or that (s)he ‘is not bad enough’ for an EHC Plan, it’s worth ringing us to check.
Just ask the parents who, like Jo, are glad they did.
You can get in touch with the Helpline in a number of ways:
- By phone on 0300 666 9410
- By email, using our online query form
- By calling into one of our Drop-In clinics, held in the London office on the first Tuesday of every month between 10.00 am and 1.00 pm
- Through our new online ‘Live Chat’ service due to be launched soon
The Helpline also holds regular Drop-Ins at Centre 404, in Islington. They take place on the first Friday of every month, between 10.00 am and 12.30 pm.
In addition we are happy to come and talk to parents’ groups in the London area about SLCN and how to use your rights under the SEND system to access the help your child needs.