Is your child late to talk? Doesn't understand simple instructions? Doesn't listen? Doesn't seem to concentrate? You're not alone. Lots of children – maybe as many as 50. As understanding language is a pretty basic requirement, especially once a child starts school, this seems very strange.
There was a brief flurry of interest in speech therapy when The King's Speech won all its Oscars. But we seem to have slid back into the old routine. Children need help. But there aren't enough therapists. So children languish on the sidelines and fall behind at school.
The Government has just proposed a new framework for early years education, which will give two-year-olds basic progress tests on a variety of areas, including communication and language.
But what if these tests pinpoint a problem? Who's going to provide the expert help your child needs?
This is something that worries the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. The College – which was set up with the help of Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech – welcomes anything that ensures that children are equipped with the communication skills they need to flourish at school.
'We know that early identification and intervention is vital to improving a child's life chances,' says chief executive Kamini Gadhok.
But assessment isn't going to do much good if there's nothing to refer children to. 'A recent RCSLT survey has reported that services across the country are losing their funding,' says Kamini Gadhok. 'As a result many are de-commissioning their universal services for pre-school children.
'This is very worrying news as losing these services, especially for children in deprived boroughs, is likely to reduce early identification and intervention significantly.'
So what can you do if you're stuck on the waiting list? The parent-led organisation Afasic is asking for about Speech Quest, an online resource set up by two speech and language therapists. If you've got a child under five who's got difficulty communicating, give it a go, and tell Afasic what you think.
Afasic also has a brilliant helpline – on 0845 3 55 55 77 – which is open Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 2.30pm. This can help you to access specialist help to unlock your child's speech and understanding.
Alternatively, get political. Ask your MP why services are being cut. After all, any child who can't understand or communicate is completely cut off from the rest of the world. Denying them help is like locking them in a room and throwing away the key.
For more information about the national year of communication, 'Hello', contact The Communication Trust.
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