Applications are closing in September. In this blog, I try to answer FAQ's about LDC's.
"My child's teacher is suggesting a referral to an LDC. Do you think he needs it?" Unique to Perth (WA), LDC’s or Language Development Centres are independent public schools for children with language difficulties. They were created in the 80’s as an initiative of Marie Donovan, who was principal at the WA Deaf School. She noticed that non-Deaf students with language difficulties were progressing well in this environment and that their language needs weren’t always supported in mainstream schools. Following a trip to the UK and supported by a group of parents advocating on behalf of their children with language difficulties, Marie convinced her school director to open the first LDC class in 1984. At the time, it wasn’t common for speech pathologists to work in schools but Marie thought that they had an essential role to play in education. I am not about to disagree with her. Thank you, Marie! There are now 5 LDC’s across the Perth area: Fremantle, West Coast, North East, South East and Peel where eligible students receive a specialised language programme to support their education and literacy needs. Referrals typically need to be sent in September (see at the end of this article for exact dates in 2017).
For many parents, the possibility of a referral to an LDC raises questions, so I turned to Anna Taylor, speech pathologist at the North East Metro LDC with a few FAQ’s. Anna consulted with her team to answer those questions and I hope I can do justice to her very comprehensive answers. I also asked a couple of parents for their feedback on their LDC experience.
How can I refer my child to an LDC?
The referral process involves comprehensive assessments by a speech pathologist and a psychologist and a teacher or caregiver questionnaire. Referral criteria include: having a significant primary language disability, a non-verbal learning potential within or above average range and sound adaptive behavioural skills. Parents wishing to refer their child should talk with their child's teacher or contact a speech pathologist, a school psychologist or call an LDC to start the process. Get in early, it takes time...
What will my child get in an LDC that they wouldn’t get in a mainstream school?
Having a language impairment puts children at educational risk. Strong oral language skills are necessary in order to perform basic school tasks and lay the foundations of literacy skills and lifelong learning.
Socialisation: how do children cope with the transition from mainstream to LDC and back to mainstream after a few years in an LDC?
Children can be referred for a placement in Kindy, Pre-Primary and Year 1 and will return to mainstream education after that. For many parents, this is a concern and, in my experience, the most common reason parents cite when declining an offer to be referred to an LDC.
LDC’s have social skills and transition programmes whose aim is to prepare students for the challenges they may face when transitioning back to mainstream. LDC’s offer social skills lessons focusing on conversations and friendships. They prepare the children for scenarios that might occur in mainstream. Every child is different and the nature of their remaining language difficulties, the support they get in the mainstream school and their ability to rely on strategies such as asking for help are all important factors in how children cope and adjust to change. Some transition quite smoothly, others require more support.
One parent I interviewed stated that there had been good communication between the mainstream school and the LDC and plenty of preparation to facilitate the transition. She also felt that, whilst her child was progressing well in mainstream, more should be done to support mainstream teachers who have a language impaired student in their classroom, because: “They have many children within class and they not only have to work out the programs but also try to understand children that struggle with keeping up [with] what is [a] normal program”. Whilst mainstream schools benefit from a Speech and Language outreach service, it is a fair point and one that reinforces the rationale behind the implementation of LDC’s in the first place.
How do you measure the impact of LDC intervention?
That was my question! UWA conducted a couple of studies between 1997 and 2003, with findings demonstrating the positive impact of LDC's on children's language (especially receptive language). There hasn’t been any recent research on the topic (PhD research, anyone?) but LDC’s regularly analyse their own data to evaluate student progress and the effectiveness of their programmes. They recently presented at a Speech Pathology Australia conference in Sydney and earlier this year, hosted presentations by PhD students on their research. However, I might leave the last word to a parent. See the answer to my question: “Do you feel the outcome would have been different if your child had not been to an LDC?”
“Yes very much so, it wasn't just the focus on speech but also the strategy they used with writing and understanding the different levels that [underlie] speech. I would recommend [to] start the process as soon as you can.”
In 2017, closing dates for referrals are:
Referrals into Pre-Primary and Year 1: Friday 8th September 2017 (Term 3, Week 8)
Referrals into Kindergarten: Wednesday 20th September 2017 (Term 3, Week 10)
If you have any questions re. LDC referrals, speak to your speech pathologist, school teacher, school psychologist or call an LDC directly. You are welcome to contact this clinic on 0423 60 68 69.
Looking for language tips, activities and ideas? This blog is for parents, speech pathologists, teachers, educators and anyone with an interest in speech and language.