Ensuring that all children can express themselves

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The ability to review and implement wide-ranging strategies to support children's communication skills was a key factor in helping Battledown Centre for Children and Families to scoop a Shine A Light Award.

The Shine a Light Awards are a UK-wide award scheme, now in its seventh year. The awards celebrate the innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people's speech, language and communication development, recognising the hard work and determination of 21 teams and individuals across 12 award categories.

This year the fantastic work taking place at Battledown Centre for Children and Families, in Cheltenham, caught the judges' attention.

Battledown picked up one of the top accolades for putting communication firmly at the heart of its practice. Despite all children having some form of additional need all children significantly improve as they start Year 1. These needs encompass communication and social interaction difficulties, learning difficulties, speech and language delay, sensory impairment and emotional and behaviour difficulties.

The centre looks at communication from every angle and this includes reviewing different strategies and materials that can be used in the classroom. In addition, it looks at ways to make the most out of its indoor and outdoor spaces as well as ways to work collaboratively with staff, parents and carers.

Thinking outside of the box

Staff members at Battledown are always trying to think outside the box on how they can support their children better. They specifically structure each day to allow opportunities for children to work individually and in groups, unique outdoor spaces have been created, including an allotment area, a sensory water garden, a mud kitchen and a music trail with two of their four classrooms designed exclusively to promote communication. Spoken language is always accompanied by visual gestures, signs, pictures and symbols to ensure all children are able to take part.

Working with parents

Staff dedicate a vast amount of time to building solid working partnerships with parents and carers including making regular phone calls and visits as well as sending home regular photos. The centre's family worker also runs focus sessions to cover a range of topics such as sleep and behaviour, and fine motor skills.

To support parents further, the centre offers extended services all year round so that children have continuity during the holidays by offering a play scheme, family drop-in sessions and holiday clubs, providing additional support for parents and carers, while at the same time allowing staff members to continue observations and assessments.

Staff training

The management team at Battledown takes staff training extremely seriously, with every member of staff trained in ‘Total Communication’, which is embedded in its practice. They have all taken part in the Attention Autism Programme and 60 per cent of staff have had Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training.

Outcomes

Awards host and British comedian and writer, Sally Phillips, whose son Olly has Down's syndrome was impressed by what Battledown has achieved.

She said: ‘The amazing winners and highly commended finalists prove what a difference we can make if we become informed, impassioned and engaged in the speech language and communication needs of those around us. As a nation, it is vital that we ensure that all children have the opportunity to express themselves, particularly when this ability has a profound impact on our future life chances. Staff at Battledown are ensuring their children do just that!’

Useful resources

  • The Shine a Light Awards are a UK-wide award scheme that celebrates innovative work and excellent practice in supporting children and young people's speech, language and communication development. Each year the scheme invites ‘individuals and organisations to share their approach to innovation and best practice; the impact their work has had and why speech, language and communication needs are important to them’. Follow the awards on Twitter #awards_SAL

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