Children with nursery staff member

Enabling Early Years: How SLCN Training for Early Years Settings Empowers Parents

Kate Freeman, Speech and Language Advisor for I CAN, discusses how training early years professionals makes a difference for parents of children with speech, language and communication needs.


Early intervention is critical for children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). Without the right support early on in their lives, the gap between children with SLCN and their peers widens significantly. This not only prevents a child from fulfilling their potential, but leads to increased costs to schools, local authorities and health services in the long run.

Early years settings not only play an important role in children’s education, they also act as a key link to parents and families. Enabling early years practitioners to identify and address communication difficulties is therefore crucial; this will in turn empower parents to get the help that their child needs. However, many early years educators have identified that they need more guidance when it comes to SLCN. 

To address this, I CAN has joined the Early Years SEND Partnership. Launched in October 2018, the project is providing significant support on SEN and disability to early years settings and local authorities. Led by the Council for Disabled Children, a range of organisations are working together to offer training, resources and support across the Midlands and north of England. Together with nasen, I CAN has provided in-depth training for early years managers and SENCos on how to identify and respond to SEN and disability.

We recognise that young children spend most of their time at home, and therefore parents play the most important role in their child’s development. Good communication between early years settings and parents is essential: together they can build a fuller picture of a child’s needs. With the right training, we believe that practitioners will be able to offer the best possible support to parents, recognising not only that families are crucial in supporting their child’s SLCN, but also that all are different and need tailored support.

With 27 training courses completed to date, we have helped nearly 800 early years professionals to increase their confidence around special educational needs and disabilities. In our most recent evaluation, 94% of attendees reported that they now know more about SLCN.

Follow-up training is now on offer for early years setting managers who would like to develop a more detailed understanding of SLCN. We aim to raise awareness of SLCN, help early years professionals spot hidden signs that a child might be struggling, and prepare them to address these signs, while collaborating closely with parents. Ten in-depth courses will run from June to November 2019, aiming to reach at least 256 setting managers.

To find out more or sign up to the training, visit The Council for Disabled Children’s website.