How are your child’s communication skills? Support them with a new FREE progress checker

by Amy Loxley is a Lead Speech and Language Advisor for Speech and Language UK.

When you’re worried about your child’s progress in speech and communication, you usually only have their peers or your older children to go by. This can be helpful, but everyone develops at a different pace, so how do you know what is average?

A new tool from charity, Speech and Language UK can help. Their team has developed a free “progress checker” that you can use to either set your mind at rest, or help you understand if there may be an issue that needs following up. Amy Loxley, lead speech and language advisor for the charity has written for SNJ all about the new resource.

Speech and Language UK’s new free online Progress Checker helps parents understand how their child is developing, by Amy Loxley

At Speech and Language UK, we work to support the 1.9 million children struggling with talking and understanding words. We design innovative tools and training for thousands of nursery staff and teachers. We give families the confidence and skills to help their child. And we put pressure on politicians to prioritise support for children.

There are currently 1.9 million children struggling with talking and understanding words in the UK[1]. This equates to one in five children and is the highest number ever recorded. A great deal of change is needed to support these children – including more support for families, more training for teachers and nursery staff, and more action by politicians.

Struggling to talk and understand words affects a child’s whole life. Without the right support, these children are more likely to struggle to read, write and do maths, have mental health problems, and be out of work as an adult[2].

To help families support their child’s skills, we have launched our new and improved free Progress Checker.

Families can make a massive difference

What families do can make a real difference to children's development. Reading to your children, teaching them songs, taking them on visits and creating regular opportunities to play with friends at home are linked to improved learning and interaction skills[3]. How families talk to their children can help their later language development[4].

When we surveyed families in 2022, they told us that they needed simple advice about how to support their child’s development with video examples (further down this article). Our data showed that the largest group of families who contacted us had children aged between 18 months and 3 ½ years.

That’s why we updated and relaunched our new online Progress Checker. It’s a free tool that helps parents and carers to know whether their child is on track with their speech and language development. It also gives them simple ideas of how they can help their child if they are struggling.

How to use the progress checker

To complete the new Progress Checker, users first select whether they are either a parent/carer or an educator.

Select if you’re a parent or educator

They choose the age of the child they want to check.

Add your child’s age

Next, they answer the questions to the best of their knowledge. There are questions about the child’s attention and listening skills, understanding of words, talking, speech, and social communication skills.

Answer the questions

At the end, users are given helpful advice and resources for the child’s areas of difficulty based on their answers to the questions. For families of children aged 18 months to 3 ½ years, this will include some video resources. The videos were created with children and families, and they show some easy ways that families can help their child develop their skills.

Below is an example of one of these videos:

An example of using the progress checker

The progress checker is a great way to get started helping your child

The Progress Checker won’t take the place of an assessment or advice given by a qualified professional such as a speech and language therapist. However, it does give families something to do in the early stages, when they might be wondering whether their child needs support. For some children, this will be enough. For others who need more support, the tool can give families something to try while they are waiting to see a professional.

Our plans for our Progress Checker include expanding our video resources for children younger than 18 months and older than 3 ½ years. We are also developing resources so that in the future, educators who use the tool will be directed to relevant resources and training.

Do let us know what you think of our Progress Checker – we love to hear your thoughts.

There is much more to do to support the 1.9 million children who are struggling with talking and understanding words. Speech and Language UK is calling on the next government to help the record-breaking number of children struggling with talking and understanding words. Please sign our open letter and help change young lives.

References

  1. [i] Speech and Language UK. 2023. Listening to unheard children. speechandlanguage.org.uk/the-issue/our-campaigns/listening-to-unheard-children/
  2. [ii] Save the Children, 2015. Early Language Development and children's primary school attainment in English and Maths: New Research Findings.
  3. [iii] Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Taggart, B. (2004). The effective provision of preschool education (EPPE) project: findings from preschool to end of key stage 1. Nottingham, United Kingdom: Department for Education and Skills.
  4. [iv] McGillion, M., Pine, J. M., Herbert, J. S., & Matthews, D. (2017). A randomised controlled trial to test the effect of promoting caregiver contingent talk on language development in infants from diverse socioeconomic status backgrounds. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(10), 1122-1131.

About Amy Loxley

Amy Loxley has strawberry blonde ahoulder-length hair with a short fringe. She is smiling and wearning large glasses
Amy Loxley

Amy Loxley is a Lead Speech and Language Advisor for Speech and Language UK. With 15 years’ experience working in the speech and language therapy sector, Amy has worked with a diverse range of client groups across early years, primary and secondary phases, and in community, mainstream and specialist settings in the UK and Australia.

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