25 October 2023
Week commencing 16 October saw the RCSLT policy and public affairs team lead three influencing events across the United Kingdom: one at Westminster on childhood apraxia of speech, one at the Senedd in Wales on developmental language disorder (DLD), and a similar event on DLD at Stormont in Northern Ireland.
Chris Kamara joins Saqib Bhatti MP at the House of Commons for event on improving support for people who communicate differently or with difficulty
Speech and language therapists, charities, parents and carers, and MPs and peers converged at the Terrace Pavilion in the House of Commons on Thursday, 19 October, for a special parliamentary reception to increase awareness of childhood apraxia of speech and other speech and language difficulties.
The event resulted from a series of discussions with Saqib Bhatti MP, known for his commitment to this cause. One of the most heartening backstories leading to this reception centres on one of Mr. Bhatti’s constituents, Mikey Akers, who has verbal dyspraxia. Recognised for his advocacy, Mikey has been actively working alongside former footballer and now-renowned commentator Chris Kamara, in championing the cause of awareness of those who communicate differently or with difficulty.
The presence of Chris Kamara notably enhanced the reception, as he shared with attendees the ongoing fight for improved access to speech and language therapy.
One of the standout moments of the event was the speech by Irma Donaldson, the Deputy Chair of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).
“In a world driven by communication, it is imperative that we shed light on the challenges faced by people who communicate differently or with difficulty,” Irma stressed.
Emphasising the importance of synergy between parents and speech and language therapists, Irma highlighted that over 10% of UK children exhibit some communication difference or difficulty, often overlooked or underdiagnosed.
She accentuated the quintessential roles played by both parents, who stand as the backbone of support for their children, and therapists, who deliver expert strategies tailored to individual needs. However, Irma also noted that the collaborative effort extends beyond this and requires the involvement of educators, policymakers, and legislators to foster an environment where every voice is valued.
DLD Awareness Takes Center Stage in Wales and Northern Ireland Events
To elevate the discussion on Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), the RCSLT policy team also organised two crucial events in Wales and Northern Ireland on Tuesday, 17th October.
In Wales, a DLD awareness event was held in collaboration with Parents Voices. This saw the grand launch of the ‘DLD vision’, an initiative to increase awareness and understanding of the disorder. The event drew in an impressive crowd, with ten Members of the Senedd (MSs) attending, including the Deputy Minister for Social Services, the Minister for Health and Social Services, and the Minister for Education. The Deputy Minister also graced the occasion with a speech.
The event was not just attended by policymakers but also by 50 other stakeholders, including prominent civil servants. A particular highlight was the performance by a specialist resource base from Coed-Y-Brain Primary School. The feedback from families affected by DLD was overwhelmingly positive. For many, it was an emotional experience as they got the chance to share their journeys and connect with other families facing the same challenges, some for the very first time.
BBC Wales recognised the significance of the event by dispatching a camera crew. This resulted in stories about DLD being featured across various media outlets on DLD day, including online, radio, and television broadcasts in English and Welsh.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, the RCSLT NI team was equally busy. The day kicked off with a workshop tailored for members across the region. Both NHS and private therapists had the unique opportunity to gain insights from Stephen Parsons, the NAPLIC Chair, who shed light on the progression of diagnosing and supporting individuals and their families with DLD in Northern Ireland.
The activities shifted to the Long Gallery in Stormont, where over 120 delegates gathered for the ‘Spotlight on DLD’ event. Sponsored by SDLP MLA Cara Hunter, the event provided a platform for passionate speakers to share insights on DLD’s presence in the classroom and the associated challenges and opportunities. Stephen Parsons unveiled the ambitious 30-year vision for a DLD-friendly society. But the standout moment came from 11-year-old Corey McBride, who shared an inspiring video about his life with DLD. The event culminated with the Education Authority NI introducing a new set of resources designed to aid post-primary teachers in understanding DLD and equipping them with effective classroom strategies.
With such initiatives, it is evident that the conversation around DLD is gaining the momentum it deserves, ensuring a brighter future for those affected.