To support and develop a SEN child with communication and language needs to have a positive impact on their PSE skills towards his peers and his overall behaviour in the Reception environment.

(Krishikka Neville)

 

                     

Introduction:

Having been in Reception for my second year now, I noticed in both the years how low children’s communication and language (CLL) skills were. This observation was supported by my own and my team’s baseline data which showed a significant regression in the past two years compared to former years’ data, in CLL, in the Early Years. There could be various reasons for this significance regression: speech impairments, English as an Additional Language (EAL), other additional needs that I was not aware of, over use of dummies and bottles, children not having a rich environment of language being modelled to them, lack of confidence to speak out loud or being very shy and medical conditions that prohibited them from speaking.

As speaking is a vital Early Learning Goal in the Early Years and in life, I wanted to base my project around this area and I wanted to implement change in my day-to-day practise and classroom environment to see whether different approaches would have an impact on my chosen child’s communication and language development and in turn the impact on his personal, social, emotional development.

Background:

The way children with special educational needs are diagnosed and supported has changed significantly, particularly following the implementation of reforms to the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system in 2014.

Government figures show that since 2010, the proportion of children with special educational needs has fallen sharply from 21.1 per cent to 15.4 per cent. However, the proportion of children with Education, Health and Care Plans or statements of special educational needs has not fallen in that time, so the apparent decline is solely among children with less severe difficulties, who may no longer be included on the SEN register.

‘The proportion of children with special educational needs and disabilities has not necessarily changed, but teachers are now looking more carefully at how they may be able to use quality teaching to better meet individual needs,’ ‘If the needs can be met by better teaching, then those children should not be included on the SEN register.’ – Dr Adam Boddison, chief executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN).

For schools and early years settings, these changes have introduced new ways of working and fresh challenges. However, in a research report published by the DFE in 2017, it was identified that these, “new ways” of working are very varied when comparing settings to settings.

The purpose of this network was to provide a supportive, participant driven, learning community through which schools and settings can analyse the effectiveness of their provision for children with Special Educational Needs, enhance their own practice through action research and deepen their understanding of how to best meet the individual needs of the children in their care.

Context of the School:

Gearies Primary School opened in 2013 following the amalgamation of a former infant and junior school. It was awarded National Teaching School status in April 2014 and works with other local schools as part of the Gants Hill Partnership Teaching Alliance. The school is much larger than the average primary school, with three classes in each year group. It is expected that pupil numbers will continue to grow. The school meets the government’s current floor standards, which set the minimum expectations for pupils’ attainment and progress. Pupils from minority ethnic groups make up nearly the whole school roll. The majority of these pupils are from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian heritages. The vast majority of pupils speak English as an additional language. The proportion of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs supported at school action is below average. The proportion supported through school action plus or with a statement of special educational needs is broadly average. The proportion of pupils eligible for additional support through pupil premium funding is broadly average. This is additional government funding for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and those in local authority care.

An overview of the practise:

After researching, visiting various Early Years settings through our Gants Hill Partnership and liaising with my Early Years Team, my school SENCO and having a close rapport with the Lead SEN practitioner, I looked into various ways I could adapt my practise and environment to support the communication and language needs of my SEND child (Child S).

Therefore, I took the following actions:

  • At the beginning of the year, as part of our transition from nursery to Reception and as part of our Early Years provision we started off with having key groups just like in the nursery. To ensure that key group was delivered effectively, consistently and to monitor progress, Child S was in my group.
  • After Child S grew comfortable in the group setting and had benefited from the rich language environment around him, he began to communicate verbally using words instead of using gestures which was his only way of communicating.
  • I then moved on to one to one five minute sessions which happened 2 – 3 times a week. Child S and I began on working on direct lines of communication and understanding, so that Child S could learn to use verbal communication as his primary way to communicate.
  • When Child S’ understanding was improving and he could answer using short words/phrases I integrated what he had learnt into his daily classroom routine and activities and started to develop his communication and language in relevant contexts.

Other actions implemented:

  • Targets were implemented into Child S IEP to ensure that groups were implemented to support his communication and language needs and in turn his personal, social and emotional development so that his interaction could develop with other children in these groups.
  • Termly observations were made by me of Child S’ needs, progress and to analyse what support needed to be put in place.
  • Observations were made by other adults who came into contact with Child S in small SEN groups (Lead SEND practitioner) and adults who also worked with Child S in the Early Years setting to inform me of my next steps.
  • Opportunities for adult modelled led play to allow Child S to see and hear grammatically correct sentences and then allow him to have the opportunity to interact with peers verbally and to respond to what has been said to him, with support, and with what he has seen modelled to him. Additionally, this was also to develop his personal, social and emotional skills and his peer relationships in class as well.
  • Regular assessment and collection of data in communication and language areas and personal, social and emotional areas using the ‘Development Matters in the Early Years Stage’ assessment criteria.
  • Regular feedback to other practitioners in the class to inform them of Child S’ needs and what support he needs to be put in place by all adults to ensure the provision provided was consistent and effective.
  • Visual pictures around the classroom and around the Reception environment to support and help him understand the various transitions and areas that he will be experiencing and coming into contact with.

Theory of Change:

(Click on image to view)

A review of research that informed this study:

The Nuffield Early Years Language Intervention

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention is an evidence-based oral language intervention for children in nursery and reception who show weakness in their oral language skills and who are therefore at risk of experiencing difficulty with reading.

In 2016, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) published an evaluation study of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention. The statistically significant results from 34 schools demonstrated that the programme increased the attainment of levels of 4- to 5- year-olds in vocabulary, grammar and listening skills and improved language and children’s confidence. The EEF designated the intervention as a ‘promising project.’

Support SEN pupils with speech and language difficulties: classroom strategies for teacher assistants (Linda Evans, 2016)

According to Ms Evans, the first step to supporting children with speech and language difficulties is to identify the children who may have difficulties and make your team aware of their needs and capabilities. Then reminding yourself and the team to use straightforward and simple approaches to begin with (i.e. using short and simple sentences, modelling responses, giving them choices to pick from). Then over time, you can gradually improve the child’s speaking and listen (and often behaviour) across the board.

Be aware how you speak and listen

Secondly, to be aware how you speak and listen. Using incorrect pronunciation and grammar leads to additional confusion for children who are already struggling to understand and get things right. It’s also important to recognise that children with speech and language might not understand non-literal language and sarcasm. ‘I think you’ve turned a corner today’, which I heard recently from a teacher pleased with a child’s progress, actually meant nothing to the child at all.

In terms of listening, teachers and TAs should be offering good models of this all the time: listening carefully when a child speaks to them, asking questions to ensure they understand the child’s meaning, and listening to each other (teacher to TA and vice versa) in a courteous way.

Where members of staff are failing to provide good models of speaking and listening, the issue must be addressed.

The Environment

  • Seat pupils with speech and language issues away from distractions and near to you so that they can see your face clearly when you speak.
  • Use visual back-up as much as possible (facial expression and gesture, visual timetables, symbols, visual timers); show examples of completed work; use video clips to demonstrate processes.
  • Establish class routines and explain carefully when there are changes.
  • Praise and reward good speaking and listening; focus on these skills at particular times, with clear explanations of ‘what I’m looking/listening for’. Use good examples of speaking to reinforce good communication.
  • Establish turn-taking rules, perhaps using a toy or bean bag to pass around the class (only the person holding the object can speak).
  • Allow time for pupils to answer.
  • Establish a system for asking for help.
  • Encourage pupils to ask each other for help and explanation when they don’t understand something – and praise this when you see it happening.

 Different Approaches

Break down tasks and instructions into manageable ‘chunks’. When TAs sitting on the carpet with a child and talking to them at the same time as the teacher is talking to the class. This is distracting for other children sends a message to the child wit that they don’t need to listen to the teacher as their ‘helper’ is there to repeat and simplify what has been said. Instead, encourage the child to listen carefully along with everyone else at first, before the TA checks their understanding and then uses appropriate prompts and visual aids if needed.

Language as a child wellbeing indicator. (2017) Law, J; Charlton, J; Asmussen, K. Early Intervention Centre. Newcastle University.

Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write. This report makes that case that children’s language skills be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator.

The Early Intervention Centre is calling for early language development to be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator, so that it must be treated as a public health issue, like vaccination, obesity and mental health. This change would make it clear that language development problems have serious consequences and require additional support, even when they are not the result of acute or clinical disorders.

Method:

Action research is simply a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162).

Many people are drawn to this understanding of action research because it is firmly located in the realm of the practitioner – it is tied to self-reflection. As a way of working it is very close to the notion of reflective practice coined by Donald Schön (1983).

The research needed for social practice can best be characterized as research for social management or social engineering. It is a type of action-research, a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action, and research leading to social action. Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice (Lewin 1946, reproduced in Lewin 1948: 202-3)

Impact:

To collate the data for this graph, I used Child S Development Matters profile and counted the number of statements he achieved for each of the areas in the months shown on the graph. Overall, Child S has had a positive and progressive impact in mostly all areas of personal, social and emotional development. For ‘making relationships’ Child S made accelerated progress from September to December. For ‘self confidence and self awareness’ Child S made good progress between December – February. For ‘feelings and behaviour’ Child S made accelerated progress between February – May.

 

To collate the data for this graph, I used Child S Development Matters profile and counted the number of statements he achieved for each of the areas in the months shown on the graph. Overall, Child S has had a positive and progressive impact in mostly all areas of communication and language development. For ‘listening and attention’ Child S made accelerated progress between December – February. For ‘understanding’ Child S made accelerated progress between December – February. Finally, for ‘speaking’ Child S made accelerated progress between February – May.

Attendance Data:

End of December: 96.12%

January – February: 100%

February – May: 100%

In regards to Child S’ attendance, at the beginning of the term he had a few days off due to sickness, however, since then till current day he has been in every school day and this has allowed me to consistently teach, support and embed the necessary skills needed to support his communication and language.

Implications:

This project was effective and had a positive impact for my SEND child in my school’s Early Years setting due to the following reasons:

  • the consistent approach taken towards the project.
  • the daily activities and routines put in place for my SEND child
  • when needed, have the confidence to adapt and change the project continuously throughout the year to support the ever changing and evolving needs of the child.
  • Having a close rapport with the head SEND practitioner/SENCO to discuss my child’s needs, what activities and routines will support their needs.
  • To implement targets on their IEPs to ensure that communication and language was supported by all programmes that my child was involved in.

However, we need to be committed to the project to ensure that it is carried out to its’ fullest potential, to see other schools Early Years setting through committed networks so that we have that professional dialogue, if needed, to improve each other’s professional development and finally to see non – school related settings (i.e. speech and language therapy) to see the overall picture of what is needed to support a SEND child.

Considerations

  • Are you part of a network that can offer support, guidance and critical advice when needed?
  • Do you have the time to plan, implement and change your project accordingly over the course of a year?
  • Do you have the resources, means and time to research your project thoroughly?
  • Are you goals achievable in the time frame given?
  • Do you have the rapport and time to support the development of a new member of your team to carry out your project?
  • Are the goals suited to meet the needs of the child/ren/group of children that you have planned your project for?

Ethics

This piece of action research focussed on my personal professional development. The design and implementation of this research adhered to:

  1. The European Union Agency Fundamental Rights (Children in Educational Research)
  2. Article 3 Unicef’s Rights of the Child, “The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children.”

3. I.C.O guidelines on, “Public Tasks” 2019