What’s in a name? By Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN CEO
‘What’s in a name?’ is the question Juliet asks Romeo, partly to justify herself, a Capulet, and her love for a member of the rival Montacute clan.
Her conclusion is that names don’t matter.
The newly published special edition of the International Journal of Language and Communication comes to the opposite conclusion. While quoting the famous exchange between the star cross’d lovers , it is plain most people in the speech and language world disagree with Juliet. Names matter a very great deal.
I CAN colleagues Mary Hartshorne and Mandy Grist contributed to the special edition, arguing that for language difficulties, we need “a clear and compelling descriptor that children and young people, their families, practitioners and the wider world can understand and use”.
The consensus of contributors agree. Most also concur that ‘Specific Language Impairment (SLI) just doesn’t do it for us’.
Critically, from an I CAN perspective, the children and young people we work with rarely describe themselves as having SLI, SLCN or any other of the technical terms current. Their families don’t use them either. As a parent myself, I know that blank looks come my way when I say my son has SLCN or SLI. The situation is very different for the families of children with dyslexia and autism, and for young people with those conditions.
Language difficulties in children are the most frequently reported special educational need (SEN) in English primary schools. Yet there are fewer research studies of them and much lower public awareness. Children with language issues often receive less additional support despite the fact that they are at high risk of educational failure.
Confused terminology has to be a big part of the reason why.
Which is why Susan Ebbels’ work in editing this special edition is so welcome.
I hope that, having brought the terminological tangles out into the open, we can move to the next stage and resolve them once and for all. I CAN looks forward to continuing to contribute to this important debate, along with the children and families we serve.
As my colleagues put it: ‘In a 21st-century world saturated with communication, it is a curious paradox that we tie ourselves up in knots when we try to explain children’s communication difficulties.’
The special edition eloquently presents the problem. Let’s all come together to put it right.