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Impairment. Disability. Disorder. Delay. Difficulty. PERCEPTIONS OF LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT FOR STUDENTS ATTENDING MAINSTREAM SECONDARY SCHOOL ANN FRENCH MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY firstname.lastname@example.org. INTRODUCTION
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PERCEPTIONS OF LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT FOR STUDENTS ATTENDING MAINSTREAM SECONDARY SCHOOL
MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY
There is variation within and between documents as to how special educational needs are labelled (showing proportion of total uses across all documents):
Personnel identified as providing training to school staff are most likely (uses per 1,000 words) to be other LEA staff, rather than Health staff (such as SLTs):
Literacy & Learning Emotional Communication
numeracy behavioural & interaction
Autistic Sensory Physical Speech &
Local policy documents
The school SEN policy mirrors SEN CoP; the SLT Service policy mirrors RCSLT PP.
The number of children with SLCN is difficult to establish: figures from 3 to 15% have been suggested. Even assuming the lower figure for secondary children (since some early difficulties will resolve) we should expect around 30 children with SLCN per 1000 pupils. Yet for the school in this study, with around 1500 pupils, the SENCO identified just ‘several’ with SLCN.
The content analysis reported here suggests that one reason for this discrepancy may be a lack of common understanding or agreement between education and health professionals. In some central policy documents (e.g. ECM), SLCN are invisible; in others (e.g. KS3 FE) the term ‘language’ most often refers to EAL or to language stylistics. There is variation in how SEN are labelled, with terms such as ‘impairment’, ‘disability’ and ‘disorder’ being used most often to refer to physical or sensory needs (as is the term ‘diagnosis’), whereas SLC are more often classed, along with literacy, learning, and behaviour, as ‘difficulties’. All the documents studied make reference to specialists, partnerships and training, yet with the exception of the RCSLT PP, named agents are largely from education rather than health. Finally, the concept of ‘normal limits’ seems to have a minimal place in education.
These differences may be terminological, but may reflect deeper conceptual differences. It is suggested that the Education and SLT professions need to invest time in exploring any such differences in order to reach agreement on the education of children with SLCN.
Central policy documents
The term ‘normal’ (in the sense of ‘within normal limits’) is used only in JPDF and the SLT service policy
These vary in the relative frequencies of terms referring to speaking, understanding, communication and literacy:
The term ‘specialist’ is most often used (uses per 1,000 words) with non-specific reference, but when a specialist is named it is more likely to be an Education-based specialist (e.g. LSS or EP) than a Health-based one (e.g. SLT), except for RCSLT PP:
They also vary in the frequency (counted as number of uses per 1,000 words) of terms referring to different meanings of ‘language’:
Personnel identified as school partners (uses per 1,000 words) are most likely to be other LEA staff, parents, or pupils. Multi-agency work is also highlighted, but specific services are not often named:
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1997). The Ecology of Human Development. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
DfEE. (1997). Excellence for All Children. London: Stationary Office.
DfES. (2001). SEN Code of Practice. http://www.dfes.gov.uk.
DfES.(2001). Key Stage 3 National Strategy: Framework for Teaching English. http://www.dfes.gov.uk.
DfES. (2003). Every Child Matters. http://www.dfes.gov.uk.
DfES. (2004). Removing Barriers to Achievement. http://www.dfes.gov.uk.
Gascoigne, M.T. (2006). Supporting Children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs within Integrated Children’s Services. RCSLT Position Paper. London: RCSLT
Hartras, D. (2004). Teacher and speech-language therapist collaboration: being equal and achieving a common goal? Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 20, 1, 31-54.
I CAN. (2000). Joint Professional Development Framework. London: I CAN
Law, J., Lindsay, G., Peacey, N., Gascoigne, M., Soloff, N., Radford, J., Band, S., Fitzgerald, L. (2000). Provision for Children with Speech and Language Needs In England and Wales: Facilitating Communication Between Education and Health Services. DfEE Research Report 239. http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR239.doc
Ritchie, J. and Spencer, L. (1994). Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research. In
A. Bryman and R. Burgess (Eds). Analysing Qualitative Data. London: Routledge
Robson, C. (1993). Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell
The term ‘diagnosis’ is used infrequently, but when used refers primarily to medical conditions, except for JPDF and RCSLT PP.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author would like to thank those who took part in this study, and also the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists for financial support to attend the AFASIC 4th International Symposium, Warwick University, April 2007.