Virginia Beardshaw I CAN CEO Eds

I CAN CEO Virginia Beardshaw reflects on the RCSLT Conference 2014 – ‘Mind the Gap: Putting research into practice’

Well, the 2014 Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Conference was certainly challenging – and not for many of the usual reasons.

Arriving at the conference venue in the vast University of Leeds sports hall, I narrowly avoided being whisked into the Olympic-sized swimming pool by a purposeful cohort of ultra-fit young women. Budding athletes wear shocking pink these days, it seems. My best brown dress felt very staid.

Finding my way around the immense spaces was tense making all day, but worth it for the high quality content on offer.

For I CAN and The Communication Trust there was a great deal to be proud about, since so much of our work featured on the programme. The conference title was ‘Mind the Gap: Putting research into practice’ – something that we have been working on for the better part of a decade.

I CAN has made a sustained investment in the evidence base for its programmes, and it was really gratifying to have so many showcased at a major national conference centred on the practical application of research. Click on the links at the end of this blog to see the I CAN and Trust programmes which featured.

The ‘What Works?’ database is a library of interventions whose level of evidence is moderated by a panel of academics expert in speech, language and communication and supported by The Communication Trust. Hearing it explained to a highly interested audience of practitioners was particularly satisfying.

Way back in 2008 I had strongly advocated that the Bercow Review – on which I was an Advisor – recommend the development of just such a resource. And, six years later, there it was for real at the conference. An interactive website, with 7,500 practitioners registered to use it! The database is by no means finished yet: the presenters described themselves as ‘on a journey’ as the site develops and practitioners and commissioners become more adept at using it to inform their work.

The interest in very young children’s language development was a very strong strand of work at the conference. If this means, as I hope it does, that there is strong interest in well evidenced approaches to address language delay linked to deprivation this is a most encouraging sign. research. Watch this space as the newly launched ‘Read On. Get On.’ National Mission on reading, of which I CAN is a founder member, focuses attention on boosting language skills in the under fives!

The first keynote speech at the conference surprised me by being all about social media. The central notion was that it can support Speech and Language Therapists’ clinical practice. Now, I love blogging, but I have to confess to being a complete Luddite about tweeting and – whisper it not abroad – Face Book. It was mortifying to learn that – for tweeting at least – I am sadly typical of my age group. But maybe I should try again since I can’t pretend that both haven’t caught on.

But a high point of the whole event was hearing inspirational stories from Shane and from Trevor – very different men, one in his twenties and one over eighty – whose lives had been changed for the better by help with communication. Unbeatable!

Thanks to the College for a great conference.

More information and persentations will be available from the RCSLT website.

Workshops included:

The Communication Trust’s Talk of the Town

THRASS reading interventions at I CAN’s Dawn House School

I CAN-led Early Language Development Programme

London Education Inclusion Project, which I CAN works on with the youth charity Catch 22.

Poster presentations included:

I CAN’s A Chance to Talk

I CAN’s Talk Boost

I CAN’s Secondary Talk

‘What Works?’ database which is hosted by The Communication Trust