[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Toddlers to get help with talking
Children playing
One in 10 children has a communication disability
Toddlers are to get help learning how to talk in a bid to cut the numbers of children starting school with poor language skills for their age.

Half of children enter primary school unable to speak as well as they are expected to, research suggests.

The Early Talk programme which uses gestures, symbols and signing to expand vocabulary, is being piloted in 200 government-backed children's centres.

It will also be used to target youngsters with potential difficulties.

Television doesn't respond well to children.
Clare Geldard
ICAN head of Early Years

Clare Geldard, head of Early Years for the charity behind the programme, I CAN, said there were concerns that the number of pre-school children with speech and language difficulties was on the rise.

"We don't know why this is the case and I am sure there are a myriad of reasons.

"We know that television can be used in a really productive way in terms of watching a piece of television and then having a conversation about it afterwards, but we also know that television doesn't respond well to children.

"It does not give them the interactivity that children and adults instinctively seek from adults."

She said the Early Talk programme was about ensuring that nursery staff, childminders and parents had the basic skills they needed to enhance children's speech, language and communication.

"Everybody needs to have a basic knowledge about what we can do to enhance children's speech and language development," she said.

Early help

But it was also about ensuring that those children who had the potential to go on to develop speech and language difficulties were picked up early and given the help they need.

I CAN's chief executive Virginia Beardshaw said one in 10 children across the UK were thought to have a communication disability.

She added that the Early Talk programme, which will ultimately be rolled out to 3,000 Sure Start children's centres, would foster environments "where communication is embedded".

This would range from using pictures, symbols and gestures to teach vocabulary to using group work and specialist help from speech and language therapists, she said.

Children's minister Beverley Hughes said: "Communication is a vital skill in life and we want to help all children communicate better and reap the rewards of that later in life.

"This is especially important for children who have trouble communicating - particularly those with a communication disability - who are much more likely to develop behavioural and learning problems."

She said she hoped the partnership being announced would play a vital role in identifying children's difficulties at an early stage.

Nursery and children's centre staff will be given training and packages of support to help ensure children's language skills are polished and it is hoped this will be passed on to parents and children's carers.

'Double blow' for autistic pupils
16 Apr 07 |  Education
'Two languages' call for children
21 Feb 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific