“People don’t get me” – Encouraging teenagers to access speech and language support
It’s positive to see that speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) are becoming more talked about. Last year, schools assessed 230,000 pupils using Speech Link and Language Link assessments, indicating that our subscribing schools are identifying difficulties at the earliest opportunity.
With this identification, a greater understanding of the needs of pupils with SLCN is also developing. Pupils themselves are now more likely to be given the opportunity to talk about their SLCN, how it affects their lives, their relationships with others, and their learning.
It is understandable, however, that some rocky times can present in the teenage years. In these times, young people are desperate to fit in and may want to only be seen as ‘different’ for positive or self-chosen reasons.
It is often at this stage, that they might start to wish to conceal their difficulties more. They may not want to be perceived as requiring extra help or special considerations in the classroom and shun the idea of resources that might make them feel that they stand out.
Rejecting this support can then create an additional difficulty, as accessing the curriculum without this appropriate support to scaffold them becomes increasingly difficult. They may become resistant to persevering or even starting an activity and feel an increased sense of isolation, where they are aware that they are not the ‘same’ as most of their peers.
How can we acknowledge this difficulty with the young people we are working with? Here are a few thoughts as to how this conversation can be broached.
1. The covert approach
Some young people will still be accepting of extra support and resources but prefer this to be presented in a way that is more subtle and perhaps even hidden. Talking with the young person about how they would like this support to be delivered is crucial for their use and acceptance of it.
2. The big and bold approach
Some young people will respond well to the idea that ‘different is positive’. Explaining SLCN to a young person can help them, in turn, to explain to others how their difference affects them. This can be empowering and give the young person a very positive sense of self. They have unique strengths which they can share with their friends and school community.
3. The pre-planned approach
Some students feel more comfortable and less anxious in a more challenging language environment when they are fully aware of what is going to happen and have had extra time to process and understand this. Pre-teaching fits well into this premise: becoming familiar with the aspect of learning or task before the learning arises, means the subject is familiar and the young person has already taken some knowledge steps, ahead of their peers.
4. The bespoke approach
Young people often do not fall into a predictable mould. Many will have thoughts and ideas about how they can be helped best. Talking these through with the young person can help them to take ownership of their strengths and needs and to have some control over how they would like others to support them. This is the premise of the Communication Contract, which is used following Secondary Language Link interventions.
All of these solutions start with an honest conversation with the young person, giving them permission to talk about their SLCN, with no judgement or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers.
What is Secondary Language Link?
Secondary Language Link is a comprehensive package for supporting students with SLCN and those new to English. The online package includes a standardised assessment, planned and fully resource targeted small group interventions, and a staff training toolkit. This powerful packages enables secondary schools to identify and support the language and communication needs of LS3 students aged 11-14 years.