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‘Be prepared’ for children with SLCN

Ensuring that children and young people with speech, language and communications needs (SLCN) are fully integrated into the community is vital to their future development. I CAN Communicate has been talking to two children’s community organisations, The Scout Association and the Girls Brigade England and Wales (GBEW), about how they encourage children with SLCN to get involved.

Andrew Thorp is a Scout leader, he says,

“Scouting is all about offering young people adult skills for life in a safe environment in which they feel a sense of belonging. We are committed to being inclusive of all young people, regardless of ability or disability and we have a clear Equal Opportunities Policy in place. There are many practical ways to ensure all young people can fully participate in Scouting and all Scout Groups make reasonable adjustments wherever possible to support the inclusion of all young people.”

Supporting young people with SLCN is crucial and both organisations are run by volunteers, so how do they train the leaders to meet the needs of these children? Catherine Burt, runs a Girl’s Brigade Group in Portsmouth. She says it is important to meet with parents before a child joins a group,

“All our volunteer leaders are trained in working with children and young people and both our training and safeguarding materials include a section on equal opportunities and integrating children with special needs into a GBEW group’s programme. However, as every child and young person is different we believe the best way to reach out to those with SLCN is to chat with their parents or carers to explore the best and most relevant way to care for them and to ensure that the games and activities on offer are suitable for everyone, regardless of speech and language ability, to participate in.”

For the Scouts Association, they have developed Speaks to All: Leaders Guide to Speech, Language and Communication Needs a resource developed in partnership with The Communication Trust, to help their volunteers support a child with SLCN feel part of the group.

Catherine believes that there are real advantages to children getting involved in groups like GBEW, “Children and young people with SLCN benefit from getting involved in a GBEW group in many ways. We hope they’ll experience many of our organisation’s values by being part of a group, such as making friends, having fun, learning new skills, being offered a range of opportunities, and discovering faith.”

The Scouts Association carried out a survey with parents of scouts they found that nine out of ten parents/ carers said Scouting is worthwhile. Andrew believes it goes further, “As your child progresses through Scouts you should be able to see signs of the impact their Scouting adventure has on them. Parents/carers tell us Scouting gives their children more confidence, responsibility and a broader set of friends as well as skills to help them throughout their lives. Scouting can help develop your child’s social skills and encourage self-sufficiency, and gives them access to activities and opportunities that may have been otherwise unavailable to them.”

For parents who have a child with SLCN, here are the top tips to ensure your child get’s the support they need:

  1. Arrange to meet with volunteer leader to discuss your child’s needs
  2. Look at the Programme of planned activities and ensure the adult volunteers are equipped with information about how best to engage and support your child.
  3. Keep in touch with the leader, offering feedback on what is working well and where a different approach might be needed
  4. Make sure that your child is enjoying being part of the group

You can find out more about Girls Brigade or Scouts Association, follow these links.