Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Slow Communication

Ok. I admit it. I am an appalling blogger. It has been two months since my last blog. This is bad.

In part my position is defensible – I’ve been too busy to blog! The Communication Trust has won the contract to run a mass awareness and information campaign around speech, language and communication in 2011 and we are extending our secondary and youth justice work. Future blogs will share the detail but to get involved subscribe to our newsletter by e-mailing enquiries@thecommunicationtrust.org.uk.

However the title of this blog does not refer to the speed of my blogging. I have also been on holiday for nearly three weeks. Bliss. First real break for too long. And it was a real break. I turned off my mobile phone, unplugged the internet (took me a while to figure out how to do that) and relied on good old fashioned methods of communication. Talking, reading, drawing, listening (to my children a lot – did you know Miley Cyrus was just not cool any more – I do now) and sometimes just enjoying being quiet and watching (a good tactic when faced with moody eleven year old whose body language speaks volumes but who is refusing to talk).

It was this absence of continual information, of the bombardment that technology can bring that created the best possible rest. Don’t get me wrong I live glued to my mobile phone – texting and calls are an essential part of my job and social life, Skype is the best way to get gossip and don’t even get me on to online shopping. But it was nice to stop. However, it was also harder than I thought to switch back to ‘slow’ communication.

Reading a book to get a recipe rather than taking the first one that comes up on Google (which is probably why my cooking is so dodgy); removing games and DVDs from the kids in the car so we had to sing (badly) or talk (or shout) – these things while leading to good results, were a challenge to do. Maybe I am just rubbish at using technology appropriately and am alone in my over reliance on it at the cost of wider communication skills - but I don’t think so. I love face to face discussions; long chats on the phone; reading – and I am skilled at these things. But it was still hard for me to break the technology habits.

Now if I find it hard to revert to these ‘old fashioned’ methods of communication and this technology is new to me (relatively – I did not use a computer until I was 25) how much harder will the next generation find it – immersed as they are in it from birth. My primary school aged kids are adept at Skype, MSN, texting, gaming etc. and DVDs (downloads actually) are indeed a great babysitter.

Leaving aside the Daily Mail cries of bad parenting is it not time for a debate on how we should be preparing and supporting young people for this world of mass communication – without the hysteria and blame. The next generations will have a range of methods of communicating that we have not even considered yet. They will be able to communicate faster, with more people and receive more information than we were able to at their age. How wonderful for them – how exciting. Maybe ‘slow communication’ will become extinct? Maybe we will start to value even more those that can still communicate face to face? Maybe skills will diminish so all spoken language becomes an anachronism?

But for now, before we leap into the brave new world of Cybermen (downloaded too many Doctor Who episodes clearly), let us just start with embracing and accepting this new technology is here and working with young people to help them develop the broadest range of ways to communicate.

And for me – a healthy reminder that pulling the plug is a welcome break. Now back to the emails!

Monday, 19 April 2010

A tardis in reverse - guest slot from Norbert Lieckfeldt, Chief Executive of the British Stammering Association

The British Stammering Association is the UK’s national association on all aspects of stammering. Founded over thirty years ago, we are the place where adults who stammer, parent of stammering children and anyone else interested in the subject join forces to provide information, campaign for changes in services and raise awareness of the problems affecting people who stammer of all ages. Stammering affects about 5-7% of pre-school children, and about 1% of the school-age and adult population – that is about 720,000 people in the UK.

Our Information and Support Service is operating a telephone helpline, 0845 603 2001, and our website http://www.stammering.org/ is the most comprehensive web-based source of information on all aspects of stammering. The helpline sends out 2,500 information packs each year, and the website is accessed by 14,000 individual users every month. We have recently started Facebook and twitter campaigns as well.

We have developed detailed strategies for supporting children who stammer in the school setting – something which will be shortly freely available on a dedicated website at http://www.stammeringineducation.net/.

Our pre-school projects and campaigns are based on the recognition that early intervention can prevent a lifetime of stammering – and that far too many children still slip through the net when a brief, therapeutic intervention at the age of 3 or 4 might have resolved the problem of stammering completely. We have recently developed criteria for a model of service delivery for pre-school dysfluency and have tested this successfully in six pilot trusts – more children were referred, they were referred at a younger age, but successful intervention was quicker so they were discharged more quickly and thus there was no detrimental impact on the services for other children with SLCN; we are hoping to be able to roll this out across the country, possibly with some input from the Better Communication Research Programme.

So why “a tardis in reverse”, though? We are a relatively small charity, led by people who stammer, with a modest income and a small staff team. This was the phrase one of our members once used to describe us – we are “much bigger on the outside than on the inside”.