This is Ben* who is not having a good start to this term. His teacher reports that he is not the same quiet, compliant lad that she worked with last year. Her observations describe a moody and withdrawn pupil who seems to be depressed. She has tried talking to him, but he just shrugs when asked how he feels.

The teacher has had several meetings with the family who are at a loss as to the change in his behaviour but acknowledge that Ben is quite difficult at home and sometimes aggressive. He only seems happy when he is playing football. This change in behaviour seems to have stemmed from his best friend Harry moving to another school in the middle of year 3.

Ben’s schoolwork has deteriorated, and he rarely completes any task set in class.

Could Ben’s change in behaviour be due to speech and language difficulties?

After speaking to the local speech and language therapy services about Ben, the school realised that he would be on a long waiting list for a specialist assessment. The school began to carry out their own, more formal, observations and discovered that Ben was slow to follow instructions and relied heavily on following the lead of the child he sat next to or the group he was working with.

The school decided to trial a school-based speech and language package called Junior Language Link and screened Ben using the standardised assessment. Ben enjoyed the colourful online assessment and happily pointed to the pictures he thought were correct.

The results surprised everyone. Ben’s report showed that he was a ’blue’ pupil with a standard score of 81. It seemed likely that Ben’s close friend Harry had been Ben’s support while he was at the school and his schoolwork and behaviour had deteriorated since Harry had left as Ben was unable to rely on another classmate to take the lead in the same way. It was no wonder Ben was so frustrated, with the language demands of the curriculum increasing, Ben was flailing and falling behind – fast.

The school purchased the programme and screened all of year 4 with some surprising results. The assessment flagged up several children as having language difficulties that staff had not considered had been struggling in class.

We now know the importance of accurate early identification of SLCN; the interaction behaviours of those supporting children and young people; and benefits of well-designed and evidenced support programmes, such as Junior Language Link, delivered in schools and settings.

The school reported that the children loved the small intervention groups, and the teachers employed the whole class teaching strategies which benefitted all children and formed part of their whole school approach to supporting SLCN.

Now Ben (and the other identified pupils) are being supported in the best way possible. The teacher uses the recommended strategies to help deliver instructions and set tasks in the best way for each child while small, tailored, intervention groups help them work on specific areas of language that they have difficulty with.

Why don’t you take a free 2-week trial of Junior Language Link and see for yourself and see the difference it can make to your pupils?

*Names and images have been changed for the purpose of this blog. The image used is a stock photograph.

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