Taking care of mental health issues as early as possible is important for children’s emotional development and overall wellbeing. It can, however, be challenging to identify mental health issues in children, particularly younger children, as they may not yet have the communication skills to communicate how they are feeling.
Research has found that up to 45% of young people with mental health issues also have communication issues, including speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). These issues are often undiagnosed at the point of referral to a mental health service, meaning that it takes longer to deal with the issues for which help is being sought.
How does SLCN affect mental health?
Speech, language and communication needs make it harder for children to identify the problems that they are having, in order to describe them to a mental health professional.
Many psychological interventions which are used successfully to treat mental health issues, including cognitive behavioural therapies, require a good understanding and grasp of language. Without the ability to discuss more abstract concepts such as opinions and feelings, these talk therapies are of limited value to children with SLCN.
Similarly, SLCN in children can contribute to mental health problems, making it harder for them to build and maintain relationships with their peers and thus causing them to become socially isolated. Without the ability to talk through the negative emotions that these children are feeling, these issues tend to snowball, increasing in seriousness as the years go by causing considerable impact on their mental health.
Children who do not feel able to represent their feelings and frustrations tend to communicate through their behaviour and can become withdrawn, disruptive or aggressive. Often this is seen as challenging leading to the child being reprimanded. This can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem, which can have a significant impact on depression and anxiety.
Good mental health and emotional wellbeing in children require:
- being able to communicate with others and be understood
- the ability to develop new relationships and having strong bonds with family, friends and teachers
- a feeling that they are in control. The ability to make choices for themselves, however small
- being able to achieve. Small successes and developments that are noted and praised. This is particularly important in a school setting where they feel in competition with other students
- an ability to reflect and understand why things have happened and what they can do to achieve the same outcome/different outcome next time. This also ties in with feeling in control
For this reason, SLCN contributes to mental health issues by causing:
- frustration and anxiety because they can’t understand others or are not understood
- social isolation as a result of not being able to communicate with other children easily
- poor judgement because of difficulties with verbal reasoning and thinking things through logically
- difficulties in keeping up with the curriculum
- low self-esteem as a result of these factors
Elklan and mental health support
Elklan courses offer evidence-based strategies which staff can use to support teaching and learning. Our age-specific courses help all children, particularly those with social communication needs, to communicate more effectively. Elklan courses are taught by dedicated speech and language therapists and specialist teachers who train as Elklan tutors. They deliver accredited training courses to teachers, teaching assistants, early years practitioners and parents to help them communicate effectively with children and so enhance learning. Elklan courses also teach staff to be more attuned to the non-verbal cues given by children, so that they can understand when a child is struggling.
Elklan training will help staff develop students' communication skills so they are better able to engage with the curriculum, remain active in classroom discussions and be less isolated within their peer groups.
With new ways of communicating, children should find it easier to let teachers know when they are struggling or having mental health issues.
Elklan-trained teachers are taught how to identify a child who is having problems with communication. They know how to support them effectively within the classroom as well as knowing when to refer them for further support. The strategies learned during Elklan sessions are simple additions to teaching, which don’t take much from the teacher or the rest of the class to implement, but make a world of difference to children with SLCN.
Elklan offers a variety of courses tailored for specific needs and age groups. All our courses are accredited and provide practical strategies for supporting children with a range of speech, language and communication needs, whether in an Early Years, mainstream or special school setting.
Once a certain percentage of teachers and teaching assistants in a setting gain level 3 accreditation in Elklan, they can apply to complete our Communication Friendly Settings programme and cascade specific knowledge to other staff members in the school, ensuring that these skills are understood universally.
- help to provide teachers and children with a form of inclusive communication, that removes barriers to effective conversation and provides a communication-friendly environment for those with additional needs
- promote positive outcomes, in helping children to understand their peers and teachers, so that they can form friendships and strengthen their social group
- enhance children’s communication skills enabling them to participate in their own treatment, giving some control back to them regarding their care
- enable children to express themselves more appropriately leading to a reduction in behavioural issues, not an escalation as children get older
- improve the wellbeing of other children in the class because there is less disruption due to increased understanding and communication
Talk to us
Here at Elklan, we are passionate about communication. Our philosophies and methods of teaching have helped countless children develop their communication skills so that they can progress academically and integrate successfully with the world and people around them.
If you are a parent, carer, or educational professional and wish to know more about what we do, we would love to hear from you.
Why not give us a call on 01208 841450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.