Guest blog by Paula Poole, Communication Ambassador
My name is Paula Poole, a 31 year old mum of two.
I first started to volunteer at my children’s school, when my daughter was in Year 1. I listened to readers to start with. Over the months I progressed into taking small groups for guided reading, which is when a group reads a book together and then talks about what was happening, including their thoughts on the book.
I really enjoyed seeing how much the children came on throughout the year, growing in confidence too.
The teacher that I worked with suggested I do a Working in Schools course and I jumped at the chance, as I wanted to ensure I was helping children in the right way, and I wanted to gain more knowledge and confidence in myself.
I worked my way through the course, and did feel I could offer more through doing this. I then went on to do a Special Educational Needs Course, which brought to my attention all the different needs of children in mainstream schools.
I then started to help out in the Early Years Unit on a supply basis and I noticed that there was a wide spectrum of how well the children could communicate. The ones who could communicate well were confident and happy, whereas the ones that struggled weren’t unhappy but they were holding back. I really wanted to try and help these children to be included fully in what was happening in their learning environment.
I mentioned to the Year 1 teacher I was volunteering with that I was very interested in Speech and Language Development, and that I wanted to try and do some kind of intervention for those that were perhaps waiting to see a Speech Therapist or just needed a boost with their confidence.
A few days later, the teacher told me about a scheme where parents were being asked to volunteer as Communication Ambassadors, to find out about communication and to pass on vital information to other parents.
I attended a workshop and learned lots. Some was common sense, i.e. not plonking children in front of TV for hours on end, and actually talking to our children! (I am not knocking the use of television, my children and I have spent many a happy hour watching their favourite programmes – they are great. But we can use these programmes to have conversations with each other about what we are watching. I have also been known like other parents, to let them watch something for 1/2 hour while I get on with something – we all do it! Those that don’t are either saintly or lying!)
I left the training session with a lot of information which I then started to distribute in various places. I attended play groups and organised a parent pop in. The resources I was given to hand out were really good, and as people asked for them rather than just being given them, they did use them. So I don’t feel any of the resources were wasted.
I am not an expert so I think that makes me more approachable as I’m not intimidating or patronising. I am here just for people to get a little bit of information and perhaps a few ideas and props to help if they’re in limbo with their child and waiting for some professional help with a Speech Therapist.
I think this idea of having ‘Communication Ambassadors’ is a fab one, at the end of the day the support that you can give your child as a parent is key to their development. And the ideas for games you can play with your little ones are great for all kids, we all need rainy day activities!!
I have the full support of the school I volunteer at which is great as it gives me a platform and a way of setting up things for parents to attend.
I know lots of children who for different reasons can’t communicate in the conventional way, so I feel strongly that if your child is ‘able’ to do so, they should have all the help they need to make sure they start off in education knowing how to communicate and get their point across.
With a little help, we can make a difference and if it helps one child, then surely it is beneficial. It’s a drip drip effect, a little at a time, where people know where to turn and get the help they need WHEN they need it, not after waiting months and months.
All children should be allowed to fulfill their potential and if I can help parent know where to get a little extra help to ensure they achieve this, then great. As Bob Hoskins once said, “It’s good to talk.”