St Mary’s Church of England Academy in Mildenhall, Suffolk, contacted us, with concerns that 48% of their Special Educational Needs children had speech and language development issues. Struggles surrounded phonics, spelling and behaviour – and many children were frustrated about their abilities. The school recognised that hearing capacity is key to speech development and learning engagement. They asked angli-EAR Hearing to complete hearing assessments on a group of 22 children, aged five to 11. A large percentage of parents at the school are unable to access appointments outside of the local area, so the Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo), Lesley, asked if our audiologists could come and visit.
A team of three audiologists visited the school to complete ear health checks and hearing screenings on the children. Written assessment reports were provided to the SENDCo, to share with parents and discuss the findings.
Four children had excessive wax, which can cause hearing difficulties. With parental permission, we safely removed the earwax with water irrigation, during follow-up visits to the school.
Nine children presented with auditory processing difficulties. Auditory processing allows a listener to make sense of conversations, despite distractions. Some children may pass traditional hearing tests, but still have difficulty with these specifics. The ear can adequately detect the sound, but the brain has a hard time interpreting it correctly – potentially impacting on the development of a child’s reading, speech comprehension, spelling and vocabulary. These children were offered a tablet-based auditory training programme, to improve their abilities. Guidelines were also provided to the school on how they could adjust the classroom environment to support these learners.
St Mary’s Church of England Academy experienced positive results in the speech and language development of the pupils in the six-month period following the consultations. They report to have observed the following, thanks to the services and information provided:
- Increased alertness
- Better sounding out of phonics
- Higher engagement in lessons
- The children speaking at a more ‘normal’ volume level
- Improved spelling
- Improved behaviour
These fantastic results mean that the school can now focus on listening skills. This will help bring the children up to speed with their learning. Teachers have been equipped with new strategies and resource materials, to enhance the learning experience. Some children, for whom hearing/ APD was the main reason for their speech and language development issues, may no longer be classed as Special Educational Needs.
“Teachers have been equipped with new strategies and resource materials, to enhance the learning experience.”
Parental feedback has been excellent. There is relief that the angli-EAR Hearing team visited the school, rather than parents and children having to travel, and that the school covered the bulk of the costs.
School-based hearing assessments can identify potential causes of speech and language development concerns, and be a key to understanding disruptive or unengaged behaviour in class. St Mary’s Church of England Academy’s forward-thinking approach to testing their children’s hearing has led to tremendous results in academic achievement and behaviour management.
Performing assessments in the familiar and relaxed school environment is beneficial, particularly for some children who may be anxious about attending a clinic. All children were also assessed in a single day.
We are delighted to have helped achieve such positive results. Thanks to the excellent SENDCo staff’s perception and action, and our team’s identification of auditory processing concerns, the children are confidently developing listening, speech and language skills.