Naplic 2018 Conference – The best bits!

Mary Hartshorne reflects on this year’s Naplic conference.

270 delegates all enthusiastic about developmental language disorder, 15 exhibitors, a quality agenda mixing theory with practice, a sense of anticipation and excitement – what have you got? One of the highlights of my year…

The 2018 NAPLIC conference ‘Developmental Language Disorder: Making Change Happen

It was a wet weekend at the end of April, but even that couldn’t dampen spirits. Jean Gross kicked off proceedings with an inspiring look at how we all could help to change the state of provision for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. Chair of the Bercow: Ten Years On review, Jean helped people consider the levers and drivers for change. Mandy Grist and I followed swiftly on showing people the resources to help them take action: information, guidance, top tips and presentations – all found on

The session before lunch focused on creating and using evidence.  Megan Dixon, from Aspirer Research school took us through their journey to using evidence to inform their approaches and interventions, and to drive school improvement. She focused in particular on the evidence-base underpinning their pathway for children with SLCN; the school employs a speech and language therapist with a role in empowering others to support children with developmental language disorder (DLD). By the end of her enthusiastic presentation we all wanted to join her team! Tom Martell from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) gave great insight into how the EEF works and led a fascinating discussion about interpreting the results of evaluations, the challenges of evaluation whole school programmes, and the importance of ensuring interventions targeted the right children at the right time.

Lunch, exhibitions, networking – a near perfect combination!

In the afternoon, we were privileged to hear from young adults with DLD. In a facilitated question and answer session, they spoke about their experiences at school and the transition beyond. I’m sure there was no one there who wasn’t affected by their reflections; the way they honestly described their achievements and anxieties and how they identified clearly what support had really made a difference. The importance of friendships stood out: “I had friends, just not good ones”; what really made a difference was “other children knowing and understanding”. Not the first time there has been a standing ovation at the NAPLIC conference, but never one more deserved.

Maxine Burns from I CAN had to follow that! In what was actually a neat segue, she talked about a recently developed programme Talk about Talk Secondary, which prepares young people for the world of work by supporting them to deliver workshops to local employers – about communication difficulties.

In the final session we heard from four teams – sharing good practice from around the UK. Cheryl Dyer talked about trialling the Nuffield Early Language Intervention in Surrey; Mary Coleman from Forth Valley shared their experience of using the Balanced System© schemes for schools to develop SLCN provision in Head of Muir Primary school – having a measurable impact on outcomes for children; Julia Husband (SENCo) and Sarah Smith (SLT) inspired us all by talking through their whole school approach to supporting SLCN in a secondary school in Malvern, sharing really practical approaches, now embedded in every classroom; finally, Rachel Keen reflected on their county wide approach to developing commissioning for SLCN in Kent, using animal metaphors to show the transition from meerkats and koalas to elephants – change champions, charging ahead purposefully. All presentations were completely inspiring, all sharing key characteristics for change: leadership, strong partnerships, a flexible role for speech and language therapists, identifying SLCN as a priority.

I came away from NAPLIC with contacts, ideas, my thoughts provoked and my mind already on the date for next year. Get it in your diaries: 11th May 2019 #NAPLIC