Friday, 6 August 2010

Tech Talk Troubles - Laura Smith, Media and Campaign Manager

All publicity is good publicity, right? This week’s media coverage has got me thinking. Our Communication Champion, Jean Gross, recently suggested that anything can be used as an opportunity to develop children’s communication, even travelling on your summer holidays.

What did we see in the headlines? Technology stunts children’s language development. And that the nanny state is trying to take over. Hmmm

The truth is that it is too simplistic to suggest that any column inches on communication means the issue has ‘arrived’. What it means is that we are on the road and its getting bumpy.

Our issue is one that is misunderstood and taken for granted. But, it is even more than that. The underlying causes of communication difficulties, and how they manifest, give even the speech and language sector headaches articulating. So is it any wonder corners get cut in the media?

Too often we have seen messages meant to empower and support families instead becoming parent blaming and patronising. Should we worry as long as newspapers devote space to the subject?

Yes, we should. Parents aren’t the problem, but they are part of the solution.

They are the solution when they learn more about how to develop communication and spot a problem before it becomes a language delay. They are also the solution when information empowers them to secure the right service for their child with long-term needs.

The key in all of this is getting information that motivates you, not turns you off and makes you feel guilty or bad.

So, what is the solution? Cut out the media ‘middle men’? Getting information directly into the hands of families will help and is something the National Year of Communication is looking at.

However, we won’t give up on media work just because it is hard sometimes. It is in the media that debates are had and where attitudes are formed and expressed.

We will keep going until our issue has fully emerged. We are lucky to have passionate voices in the speech and language sector, such as Jean Gross, and we don’t give up easily.

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