In October last year, over 150 of the biggest voices in children’s communication came together at the House of Commons to say ‘Hello’ to the forthcoming 2011 National Year of Communication – a campaign to increase understanding of how important it is for all children and young people to develop good communication skills, including those with hearing impairments.
The keynote address at the parliamentary launch of Hello (the title of the campaign) was delivered by Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, while parents and young people spoke movingly about their experiences of living with communication difficulties. The event took place just as the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes (C4EO) specifically recommended that the National Year should be fully exploited.
Hello is run by The Communication Trust, a coalition of 39 leading voluntary sector organisations, in partnership with Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion. The campaign aims to make communication for all children and young people a priority in homes and schools across the UK so that they can live life to the full, and it is backed by the Department for Education and supported by BT.
The National Year was originally proposed by John Bercow MP – now Speaker of the House of Commons – in his 2008 Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with speech, language and communication needs. The review identified ‘a grossly inadequate recognition across society of the importance of communication development’.
In the 21st Century, the ability to communicate – to express what you want to say and to understand what other people are saying – is fundamental. Speech, language and communication underpin everything we do, though these skills are often taken for granted. The Hello campaign aims to raise awareness of the fact that over one million children and young people have some form of speech, language and communication need, which can affect them severely and for life.
The campaign will explain the nature of speech, language and communication needs. It will highlight difficulties children have with communication, including those experienced by children who are hearing-impaired, such as speech that may be difficult to understand, difficulties acquiring vocabulary, understanding connections between words or learning English grammatical structures for those children whose first language is BSL. It will also highlight the fact that these difficulties may be hard for others to understand or recognise.
Hello seeks to support young people, parents, practitioners and commissioners wherever they are – in schools, nurseries, health centres, parent and baby groups or across local authorities – to help improve the communication skills of children and young people so that they can fulfil their potential. Hello will provide information and guidance on typical communication development, how to spot if children are struggling and where to go for help and support. There will be guidance on how best to communicate with children who have speech, language and communication needs and how to encourage and support their communication skills, including signposting to specialists who can help, such as speech and language therapists and Teachers of the Deaf.
The children’s workforce will be provided with ages and stages booklets, milestone posters and clear and easy symptom checklists that help parents and professionals to articulate their concerns. Importantly, the excellent work that is already taking place will be championed and acknowledged through a Good Communication awards scheme. This offers an exciting opportunity to celebrate best practice among the children’s workforce and will shine a light on outstanding examples of multi-agency working and innovation.
There is a series of monthly themes to help you think creatively about how you can link into the campaign and to explore in depth some of the key aspects of children’s communication development. For the latest information on the Hello campaign and for updates on events and resources planned for 2011 go to www.hello.org.uk You can sign up there to receive regular updates.
Visit www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/hello to download a range of materials, including a calendar with key dates for 2011, frequently asked questions and an e-Communications toolkit.
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