A local project, Every Child a Talker (ECaT), aimed at helping children with language difficulties has been described as ‘outstanding’ by the national body monitoring the implementation of the government-funded initiative.
Although national funding has now stopped after expiry of the two year initial period, ECaT in Southampton has already secured funding from Sure Start for an additional one year as the project has proven a runaway success.
Solent NHS Trust’sEarly Language Consultant/Speech and Language Therapist, Jan Stevens, who has spearheaded the project said, “ECaT has been successful and a fantastic example of collaborative working in the City between health and local authorities. The high commendation we have received from the National Strategies is testament to the hard work all involved in the local project have put in. Getting local funding for another year is really great news for children in Southampton needing help to overcome language difficulties."
Over the last two years, the ECaT project has worked with 64 out of 83 early year’s settings in Southampton to help improve communications skills of preschool children. The project has helped practitioners and parents develop their knowledge, confidence and communications strategies.
More than 2,600 children have benefited from practitioners using a monitoring tool, at three stages of the year, to profile their language skills. This data is then compared to their chronological age to determine if a child is at risk of having language difficulties in four areas of core language development, which are Attention and Listening, Understanding, Talking and Social Skills.
“Subsequent intervention with these children has resulted in a marked decrease in the percentage of children at risk of delay in all four areas of language across the city. This means that more children will be starting school with an appropriate level of communication skills, enabling them to form friendships and access the curriculum immediately,” said Jan.
So successful have been the audit tools that some are now being offered to Reception classes across the City, which will enable education staff to continue to identify children at risk of delay. This means that support can be specifically targeted for these children in a more efficient and effective way.
In tandem with the publicity of the ‘National Year of Communication 2011’ (the HELLO campaign), which the Solent NHS Trust’s Speech and Language Therapy department are supporting, it is hoped that the progress seen to date through ECaT will become embedded into daily practice and that the outcomes for the communication skills of the children in city will continue to improve in the future.
Notes for Editors:
Solent NHS Trust was created on 1 April 2011. We provide a range of community and specialist mental health services to over a million people in Southampton, Portsmouth and parts of Hampshire.
For more information please contact Elton Dzikiti, Assistant Communications Manager, Solent NHS Trust on 023 8060 8934.