Conference 2021 summary

The lesson we learnt from this year’s conference is that no matter how much you prepare, you still need to be ready for the unexpected. The sudden failure of a server at our conference support partner resulted in a large number of delegates not being able to log on and watch the early speakers. It eventually got sorted, but we know it caused a great deal of frustration for many delegates. Thank you for your patience and perseverance.

We know it is not the same as the live event, but delegates will be able to log on and watch the presentations. We are also going to arrange some ‘watch parties’ so that delegates will be able to watch the presentations and then discuss them together. Keep an eye out for that.

“The NAPLIC conference is always a highlight of the year and this year felt unmissable. The range of speakers was excellent. I was so impressed with the way it was run. I really appreciated hearing from academics whose research I follow and also hearing about best practice. The balance between teachers/therapists felt particularly good this year. I think the Committee have done an incredible job pulling this conference together.”

NAPLIC 2021 CONFERENCE DELEGATE

The conference content was definitely top notch. Below is a brief summary of each presentation. 

The first speaker was NAPLIC President, Professor Courtenay Norbury from UCL. Summarising 10 years of her longitudinal SCALES study. Courtenay so often has little gems that really challenge thinking and one that struck me was that most children from lower SES have typical language development, so for most children language is resilient. This is contra to much media coverage. In relation to intervention Courtenay used the analogy of running marathons. Unless we keep going the impact of the intervention (like marathon training) fades. Something to ponder when designing services. 

Next Dr Yvonne Wren from Bristol spoke about the very exciting use of artificial intelligence to analyse language samples. Her team recorded a large number of children re-telling a simple narrative. In what sounds like a laborious task, they compared manual language samples to the AI analysis which in general proved reliable. The next step is to compare this to clinical samples, with the hope that it will support language sample analysis. What a time saver!

The technology theme continued with Professor Charles Hulme from Oxford who started by outlining the recently developed Language Screen app. As we would expect from this team it has been thoroughly developed. It is a reliable measure of language designed to be used by schools for screening for language needs. Charles then continued with the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) which has been rolled out to English schools on a truly mammoth scale. NELI has a strong evidence base, so it is giving schools a really effective tool to use to support young children at targeted level. 

NELI was the link into the next talk which was delivered by Louise Buckland from St Johns School in Dorking. St Johns were involved in earlier roll outs of NELI and so Louise had considerable experience to share. Of particular note was how they had integrated NELI into their overall support for children with SLCN. NELI was used part of a pathway, and children with higher level needs were then referred on to Speech and Language Therapy. NELI is part of the system not the answer to all children with SLCN. 

NAPLIC is all about collaborative practice and so we were very keen to hear from Specialist SLCN teacher, Mary-Jo Spearey and Speech and Language Therapist Pippa Cotterill who work together in Wales. What made it even more impressive is that they manage this across multiple local authorities and have continued this work over a number of years. They have a clearly defined offer which makes best use of resource and leads to positive outcomes. Mary-Jo and Pippa have added lots of resources to the conference portal for delegates to access. 

Professor Kate Nation from Oxford gave a fascinating talk about ‘book language’ that synthesised complex data and concepts very simply. Key points include: young children’s books use a wider range of words than child directed speech. The words are denser (carry more meaning), more abstract and morphologically complex.  Interestingly books contained more emotional vocabulary than child directed speech. The differences were not limited to vocabulary, as children’s books were also found to be syntactically more complex. Pre-school children who have been read to less are therefore less likely to be familiar with the demands of book language, which in turn may impact on their readiness for reading. 

The final two sessions of the day addressed oracy. Starting was Professor Neil Mercer from Cambridge. Neil provided great insight into the importance of spoken language in the classroom to promote learning. A powerful point was made about the balance between teacher talk and student talk, and in particular the need for students to take long turns in whole class discussions. To achieve this requires organisation and systematic teaching of these skills. Neil emphasised that oracy was inclusive, as systematic teaching of skills supported all learners.

This point was picked up by Dr Wendy Lee from Lingo in her talk to finish the day. Wendy talked about how oracy approaches can be enhanced for students with Developmental Language Disorder by increasing the use of visual supports, comprehension monitoring strategies and extra modelling. This can be hugely beneficial, but it requires collaboration, a theme that underpins much of the day.

There were a number of themes that ran through the day including the importance of the classroom and the language opportunities it offers for our children and young people with DLD, technology and how that can be utilised to increase reach and efficiency ,and collaboration between professions. Our presenters brought together research and applied it to the real world in a way that delegates had much to think about and apply to practice. Thank you to our incredible speakers!

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“The NAPLIC conference is always a highlight of the year and this year felt unmissable. The range of speakers was excellent. I was so impressed with the way it was run. I really appreciated hearing from academics whose research I follow and also hearing about best practice. The balance between teachers/therapists felt particularly good this year. I think the Committee have done an incredible job pulling this conference together.”

NAPLIC 2021 CONFERENCE DELEGATE

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