What is the role of a speech therapist in the Early Years?
Speech therapists support children in a range of ways to develop their speech, language and communication skills. Therapists work as part of a multi agency team around a child, supporting them alongside their family and their setting. Children who have communication difficulties or language delay can be referred to speech therapists by a range of professionals such as health visitors or Early Years practitioners. A referral can take up to 15 weeks to complete however it is important to include as much evidence as possible to support the referral. This can help a speech therapist make a decision on a child’s language development much quicker.
Speech and language delay
Children that have been referred and display the need for intervention will be invited to meet a speech therapist. This meeting can occur at home, but is usually held at a centre. This allows the therapist to meet with the child and their family and gain a better understanding of the child’s communication and language development. The child may be asked to complete some tasks for the therapist to gain an overall picture of development. A report will then be sent to parents, and all professionals involved in the referral such as the setting and the child’s GP.
Speech therapists will often visit the child at home or in their Early Years setting to gain a perspective of their language and communication abilities in everyday life. They will observe them playing alone and interacting with others. This allows the therapist to see the child in their own environment, as this can be a factor impacting on their communication development. This also offers the opportunity for the speech therapist to liaise with the child’s key worker, allowing them to work together to create some targets for the child. These targets can be transferred onto an Individual Education Plan, allowing all adults involved with the child to be working towards the same goals.
Speech therapists are part of a speech and language team, and will often have a strong link with Early Years settings in their county or catchment area. They will liaise with settings to offer support and advice. Therapists will usually aim to visit the children under Speech and Language once a term in the setting. This allows all professionals to be kept up to date with any progress the child has had and regularly update targets for the child. It is a good idea to have your area’s speech therapist information displayed within the setting, this allows practitioners and parents to recognise the therapist, and the ability to contact her directly with any questions.