‘I can do attitude’ is I CAN approved team’s ethos

Principal Speech and Language Therapist Natalie Zahn is very proud of her team at Mulgrave Early Years Centre in Woolwich. It has again gained coveted accreditation from the I CAN charity, which comes around every three years.

Natalie, who has spent 13 years working in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in community health services, explained: "We are one of only 13 places in the country to get this accreditation. I CAN set very high standards and the team here has achieved this by working hard.

"Children come here from all over the borough normally for a term though sometimes for two." After their time at Mulgrave they can then return to a school closer to home.
As well as Natalie there are two other Oxleas members of staff working at the centre in Rectory Place. They are speech and language therapists Laura Andrews and Jennifer Cook. But Natalie was keen to emphasise that it was a team effort by not just Oxleas staff but also colleagues from the Royal Borough of Greenwich's education department that made the unit such a success.

Natalie said that the work carried out at Mulgrave was sometimes intensive: "If necessary a child can get therapy every day. Elsewhere they might be seen just once a term. It is the quality and intensity of our therapy that makes us stand out."

A mum of two, Natalie said she first got interested in speech therapy after her grandmother had a stroke. She said she was so impressed by the speech therapist that helped her grandma, she thought it was something she'd like to do.
I CAN at Mulgrave opened in February 2005 to provide integrated education and speech and language therapy to pre-school children with speech and language difficulties.

The Centre is one of a UK-wide network, developed by I CAN, the charity that helps children with speech and language difficulties across the UK, in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich and community health services in the borough.

A specialist team of lead practitioners, specialist early years practitioners and speech and language therapists work collaboratively and intensively with children in the nursery setting. On a daily basis the children experience supported free play, topical focused activities and a key worker group. An enriched language environment, with signs and symbols allows them to develop their language skills at the same time as they enjoy and benefit from the mainstream nursery environment. Each child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) including speech and language targets which are met through individual and small group work.

In addition to working directly with children, the staff will involve parents/carers in helping their children at home. This is carried out through parent workshops, Parent Child Interaction (PCI) therapy sessions, joint target setting, daily feedback, review meetings and sending song sheets, topic vocabulary, Makaton signs and story books home.

Children are referred to the centre by a speech and language therapist at a community clinic who will carry out a full assessment. Referrals are accepted for children who: live in the Royal Borough of Greenwich; have their third birthday in the term they begin I CAN; experience significant difficulty in speech and language in their home language (eg in understanding words and sentences, in organising and remembering what to say, in developing a range of vocabulary and finding the right words, in developing speech that can be understood) or have speech and language difficulties as their primary need.

Towards the end of each child's time at I CAN, a member of staff from their local nursery will visit them at the centre. This visit will include a discussion with a key worker and/or speech and language therapist to get information about the child, and strategies and activities suitable for the development of their speech and language. At the same time a detailed report is written jointly by a lead practitioner and speech and language therapist.

Included in this report is a comprehensive review of the child's development in all areas, their speech and language therapy targets and outcomes, a diagnosis of their speech and language needs, new targets (which can be included in an IEP) and future management.

As each child is settling into his/ her local nursery a member of staff from I CAN will visit them. During this visit, they will provide a holistic picture of the child to promote a smooth transition. Specific activities will be demonstrated and appropriate resources provided to the setting.

Each child is then transferred to the speech and language therapy team based within the community clinic service. The I CAN speech and language therapists will liaise with the community speech and language therapists as the child's management is returned to the community.

Depending on the nature of a child's difficulties their speech and language therapy management will either take place within their local nursery or in the clinic. For those children attending out of borough or private nurseries, their management will occur in the clinic setting.

Published on 10th December 2012