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Lost for Words, Lost for Life

Conference on speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) in older children and young people highlights gap in services
by Hollie Jenkins

Today (15th June 2011), Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, will provide the official welcome address to mark the start of 'Lost for Words: Lost for Life', a three day conference taking place at City University London. The event is being run by the Division of Language and Communication Science at the University in partnership with UK charities, I CAN and Afasic.

This landmark conference takes place during the National Year of Communication and will focus on older children and young adults with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and the impact on their social and emotional development and academic achievement.

More than 400 education, health and speech and language professionals will attend the event to share research and best practice in helping young people with these difficulties at secondary school. A unique aspect of the conference will include presentations from young people and their parents about their experiences.

Dr. Victoria Joffe, Reader in Developmental Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties, City University London, said, "In the UK today, over one million children and young people have long term and persistent Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). However, research shows that a significant number of students are identified with difficulties for the first time during secondary school."

"The Bercow Review in 2008 identified numerous gaps in the provision of support for young people with speech and language difficulties at secondary school. Yet, in 2011 young people and their families are still facing a postcode lottery and lack of services. This is concerning because of the impact that this has on individuals, academically, socially and emotionally. This conference enables researchers and practitioners to come together and share best practice in order to provide improved interventions for secondary school aged students with speech, language and communication needs."

Mary Hartshorne, Head of Quality and Outcomes at I CAN, said, "Young people's speech, language and communication continues to develop throughout secondary school and into adulthood. The persistent gap in services for many young people with communication difficulties is not good news for their education and employment prospects, particularly in the current economic climate where almost one in five 16-24 year olds not in education are unemployed. However, there is an increasing evidence base for interventions which can help these young people to achieve their potential. This conference is about identifying and sharing those solutions."

Linda Lascelles, Afasic Chief Executive, said, "This conference is a unique opportunity for a variety of professionals to hear first hand from young people with SLCN and their families. Young people are best placed to tell us all what it is like living with a communication difficulty and what support they need from local services. The Hello Campaign has helped to increase awareness of SLCN. This conference will hopefully take forward current thinking on the needs of young people with communication difficulties at secondary school, to ensure they are given the best start in life, to achieve in their education and beyond."

The three day conference includes a host of exciting keynote talks, symposiums, presentations, workshops and posters which address issues around speech, language and communication, educational attainment, social and emotional functioning, employment and well-being of older children and young people with SLCN.

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