Speech and language therapy
Learning to talk is one of the most important elements of a young child’s growth and development. Early interaction between parent and baby stimulates vital early brain development. It also lays the foundations for a lifelong loving relationship.
The earliest bonding and signs of love and affection communicated through smiles, eye contact, laughing, singing and chattering have a direct impact on children’s ability to talk. It is never too soon to talk to babies. Many children learn to talk without any difficulty. In fact many children learn more than one language without any difficulty. But unfortunately speech, language and communication problems are most common in early childhood with between 5 percent to - 8 percent of children being affected at any one time. In Kensington and Chelsea there are approximately 20 speech and language therapists working with pre-school children. Children’s centres are excellent venues for providing a range of speech and language support.
Our aim in children’s centres is:
- to support parents and early years practitioners so that they can provide babies and young children in the borough with a language-rich environment
- to raise awareness of the importance of speech, language and communication development during the pre-school years
- to raise awareness of the role of parents and everyone involved with young children in stimulating early interaction and speech and language development during play and the activities of daily life
- to provide information and training to ensure that children who are having difficulties are identified as soon as possible
- to work with parents and early years practitioners to help children who are having difficulties
At children’s centres and drop-ins throughout the borough speech and language therapists are involved in a range of different activities, helping parents and early years practitioners use activities like baby massage, songs, and playtimes to stimulate crucial early interaction.
Speech and language therapists also work with parents and early years practitioners in children’s centres to identify those children who may need extra support. Anyone can refer a child to speech and language therapy, provided they have parental consent. (visit the NHS website for further information)
Children who are referred to the speech and language therapy service are initially seen individually for a full assessment with their parents or carers. For the youngest children this may take place in their own homes, alternatively an appointment can be made for them either at a children’s centre, or in one of the local health centres. However, it is very important that the parent is present to support the child through the process and to learn some skills that can be used at home with the child.
By the time children are old enough to start school they need to be able to talk and to listen with understanding. If they are able to do this, they will be well prepared to learn to read and write and will have a positive start in education. They will also be more likely to make friends easily and to enjoy a happy emotional life. So helping our babies, toddlers and young children learn effective communication skill is one of the best ways to ensure they have a good start. Parents and children’s centre staff all have a responsibility to communicate with children. Speech and language therapists are here to help this happen.