Children sometimes fail to understand the things we say to them. And yet, often, we don’t even realise this.
Kids from troubled, traumatised or attachment disordered backgrounds are particularly susceptible to speech and language problems.
So I asked my friend and colleague, Kate Parfitt (a speech and language therapist – SLT) to write a post that would help us to understand the impact of not understanding and how SLT can help.
Here’s what she wrote…
Sitting in a pushchair in the hall way facing the wall, all alone. Only a bottle of Ribena and strangers passing in and out of the house for company.
It’s been 2 hours since you were put there; alone, dirty and smelly. All you want is a cuddle and someone to talk to.
Somehow you’ve managed to get to school on time today. Usually you’re late, but your older sister made sure you got there on time today, and there was toast for breakfast. The other children in school seem to make friends easily and know how to use all the stuff in the classroom.
You sit quietly by yourself, but it’s ok, it’s warm and clean in here.
You’re going up to comp after the summer, but you’re scared. You still don’t have many friends and you don’t understand what the teachers say. You look at what other people are doing and copy them. Maybe they don’t realise how much you’re struggling to understand. You’ve heard them say it’s just because you’re tired, hungry and your mum doesn’t do homework with you.
You hope comp will be ok. It should be – your sister and bothers are there and they’ve got a big group of friends who are always in and out of your house, you know they’ll look after you.
You don’t understand why the head teacher got so mad. You try showing them you don’t understand, but no one listens. It all moves so quickly, you’re scared, no-ones there to help.
You didn’t mean to break the window or shout so much at the teacher, she looked upset when you called her those horrible names. She’s actually really nice and you do like her. She thinks you’re horrible. You think you’re horrible. They’re making you leave school and go somewhere else. You’re scared.
Your brothers tell you to take a package to a man and he’ll give you money. You do it; you’re too scared not to – you remember what happened last time you said no.
You think you got the right man, but then the police turn up, and now you’re in a locked, scary room in a basement somewhere.
There are loads of grown-ups walking around in suits looking all posh. The lady who used to call at your house takes you up to a big room with lots of benches. There is a man in a funny wig sat at the front. Everyone talks at you but you don’t understand what they were saying, it is so confusing.
You don’t want to get your brothers in trouble too, so you just nod and said yes when everyone looks at you.
Now they’ve brought you to this place to live for a while. The grown-ups need keys to get through each door. It’s quite nice, it’s clean and they give you lots of food. They’ve even given you a new pair of trainers that fit.
There are loads of other kids here too. A nice lady comes to see you one day and you play Jenga; you win 3 times! She had some pictures that you put into 2 piles – things you find easy and things you find hard. She’s the first person whose realised you find so many things difficult.
She came to see you twice a week and you looked at loads more pictures. It was amazing! You talk a lot to her, and she understands you. The lady tells the people in the place how to communicate with you, put up pictures in your room and the kitchen to help, and the teachers used similar things to help you learn in the classroom.
They’re all talking about this nice family you’re going to live with when you leave here and a hair and beauty course you can do in college.
Me, in college! I’m excited, I’m not scared or confused any more.
It’s long been my view that troubled kids need much easier access the speech and language assessments and interventions.
The snapshots Kate has written above, show just how confusing, excluding and challenging life can be for kids who struggle in this way.
Provision is still very patchy, but things are slowly improving. I hope this little piece will encourage you to advocate on behalf of kids who really need this kind of help.
(Kate currently works in three different youth offending services – Blaenau Gwent Caerphilly, Monmouthshire & Torfaen and Newport. The views expressed here are her own.)
For more info on speech and language therapists working in different settings, check out the following links:
Related previous posts…
– A Model to help troubled kids recover (TRM)…
– Empathy 3 – A ‘Child’s-Eye’ View…
– Children’s Imprisonment in Wales: A Factfile…
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© Jonny Matthew & Kate Parfitt 2019
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