Unlocking Your Child’s Communication Potential

Accessing Speech and Language Expert Reports after Lockdowns

Obtaining Speech And Language Expert Reports For Children Affected By Lockdowns

The requirement for Speech and Language Expert Witnesses has increased exponentially since the Covid pandemic lockdowns. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists told the BBC in November 2022 that the profession is struggling to cope with demand. The number of children requiring extra speech and language support in 2021/22 was 42,341, up from 38,560 in 2020/21. Babies born during 2020-2021 when lockdowns were periodically introduced have also shown deficits in social communication. As these children mature and require additional educational support, the need for speech and language expert reports, especially in cases where an appeal has been made to the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs And Disability) (SEND), will increase.

Speech and Language Expert Reports

How did Covid-19 lockdowns affect babies’ and children’s speech and language development?

The Coronavirus lockdowns resulted in many children being out of school and not regularly interacting with people outside their immediate family for more than a year. Children living in homes with clinically vulnerable people were even more isolated for extended periods.
For babies and toddlers, lockdowns meant long periods of not attending baby/toddler groups and other extra-curricular activities such as swimming and music classes and visiting relatives, decreasing their opportunities to increase their vocabulary. On top of this, even in cases where people were permitted to socialise and go shopping, attend events etc., most people wore masks, making it difficult for children (and everyone else) to understand what was being said to them by being able to read lips and facial expressions that occur concurrently with speech.
survey of schools and parents conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation found that children who started school in the autumn of 2020 needed more support than those who started school in earlier years.

The findings illustrated that communication and language development were significantly concerning. In most schools, 96% (55 out of 57) said they were either “very concerned” or “quite concerned”. Almost as worrying was personal, social, and emotional development (91%) and literacy (89%) – all skills that rely on the advancement of robust speech, language, and communication abilities.

Finally, children requiring speech and language support could not receive it during lockdowns. A report by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists found that 62% of children who needed speech and language therapy did not receive any during the first lockdown. Although online services were provided, 19% of the children surveyed disliked therapy delivered this way.

Local authorities struggled to support children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) well before the pandemic. With more children than ever needing the creation and actioning of an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) and an inevitable increase in appeals to the SEND Tribunal, the role of the Speech and Language Expert Witness will become even more valuable.

How Speech and language expert evidence can assist in the SEND Tribunal and EHC needs assessment

Parents and Solicitors will often need to rely on expert evidence when appealing a local authority’s refusal to assess a child in order to create or reassess an EHCP or gain a place in a specialist/suitable school.

If expert evidence is required concerning speech and language issues, a qualified therapist can independently assess the child in question and write up a comprehensive report to assist the Tribunal in its decision. Speech and language expert evidence can also be provided to the local authority creating an Educational Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment on which the child’s EHCP will be based upon. This is extremely important as if the local authority receives expert evidence before completing the EHC Needs Assessment; they must consider the information it contains. If they do not, they must justify their decision to the Tribunal.

Speech and language expert witnesses can also be called before the SEND Tribunal to give oral evidence and answer questions about the report they drafted.

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

At Expert Court Reports, we have a Speech and Language Expert Witness who can provide evidence on all issues involving SEN and Tribunal hearings. Our team can also provide expert reports on psychological matters.

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, third-sector organisations, and private clients. To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form.